A new book by Kat Robinson visits classic eateries in Arkansas, including Russellville's historic diner.
The inaugural Cheese Dip Competition celebrates a food that Arkansas can call its own. by Kat Robinson Arkansas boasts itself as home of the cheese-filled hot dog, rice served with sugar, Grapette and the fried pickle, but so far the state hasn't found anything that truly unites the masses. That is, until last year, when documentarian Nick Rogers came out with "In Queso Fever: A Movie About Cheese Dip." Rogers did extensive research and discovered the origins of cheese dip dated back to the mid-1930s, when a Mexican immigrant by the name of Blackie Donnelly started serving up the dish at a Hot Springs restaurant. His wife apparently came up with the first recipe. Donnelly moved his business to Prothro Junction (northeast of Little Rock) in 1939, and his restaurant Mexico Chiquito, where the original cheese dip is still served, was born. After the documentary came out, Rogers expected some strong opposition from Texans, who claim just about every Americanized Mexican dish. But there was silence. His discovery that dated cheese dip to a time before nachos (which were created in the 1940s in Mexico) seems definitive and strong. And that’s where the idea of the World Championship Cheese Dip Competition came from. After all,
The town of Emerson in South Arkansas celebrates the PurpleHull Pea in June. by Kat Robinson of Tie Dye Travels Emerson’s PurpleHull Pea Festival isn’t just about food and community, it has a lot to do with motorpower and sheer chutzpah. I got down there last June, leaving the house at oh-dark-thirty to drive on down through Sheridan and Fordyce and Camden and Magnolia to get there around 10 that Saturday morning. Right on the highway in Emerson it didn’t look like much, but after I turned and headed west toward the high school, traffic picked up. I parked on the other side of the gymnasium and walked to the church where the Great PurpleHull Pea and Cornbread Cook-off was being held. While the judging had just about concluded, I had come at a great time for sampling. As the winners were announced and trophies handed out, I eyed easily a dozen different cornbreads, varying in color from white to brown to brilliant yellow, each with its own shape in a dish or piled on a plate. Nearly a dozen dishes of traditional PurpleHull Peas were out on the end, and on the other end less traditional dishes, like PurpleHull Pea Chili,