“Many years ago, I took a pumpkin seed and planted it in the earth. I chopped, tilled, watered, and fed it. By Halloween time I had two pumpkins–one small and one large.” – Mama Dip
In 1976, Mildred Cotton Council opened Mama Dip’s restaurant, named for the childhood nickname given to her by her siblings (her height and long arms allowed her to “dip” all the way into the bottom of the rain barrel).
Born in Chatham County to Ed and Effie Edwards Cotton, Mama Dip first learned to cook by watching her family and neighbors use the “dump cooking” method of cooking by taste. While working as a family cook, and later at Carolina Coffee Shop and St. Andrews Hall, Mama Dip honed her craft, developing the recipes her restaurant would become so famous for. In 1957, she worked alongside her mother-in-law at a tiny take-out kitchen, where they made a reputation for turning out some of the best country cooking in town.
So it was with much experience, and a crowd of people already looking forward to eating there, that Mama Dip’s first opened on a Sunday in November 1976. But it wasn’t with much money – that first day, the restaurant had $40 for purchasing food, and $24 to make change. It worked out fine that day, and it’s only gotten better as Mama Dip’s nears its 40th year as one of Chapel Hill’s most beloved dining destinations.