Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dorris May's Dill Dip

Fall is inching its way forward, but there are just a few garden stragglers from high summer that will likely last another month. I'm thinking tomatoes, and cucumbers. And when I think of tomatoes and cucumbers, I think of Dill Dip, and when I think of Dill Dip, I think of Grammie.

So let me introduce you first to Grammie, then, to Dill Dip:

Dorris May, or Grammie, as we called her, passed away a month before her birthday six years ago. She was my paternal grandmother and was something else. Grammie was a woman of stature (literally) and fashion sense. She wore hot pink and lime with abandon. She was the queen of costume jewelry. She wore two and a half inch fake fingernails into her eighties. She threw parties at every possible turn. She was in some ways, my polar opposite.

The truth is, I have been trying to write about her for six years now and nothing ever seems to work. How do you explain a woman who you loved, of course, whom you are actually quite similar, but whom, due maybe to her color preferences and attire, you avoided being compared?

Well it is time now. I shall face the similarities, and hope even, for more. You see, Grammie was six foot one in her prime according to family sources, though she would never have admitted it. I am five eleven, so she is physically my closest relative. But I hated this fact. I always wanted to be small and spritish, and she was clearly the direction in which to point my accusatory finger for ruining that desire.

I didn't like that she wore lipstick so much, that she never wore a proper bathing suit to swim (undies were her covering of choice), or that she mixed salads with her hands. But, lets face it now, apart from the makeup and plastic jewelry, not only do I have her height and nose, I also have her sensitivity, her attraction to things that shine, and her tendency and her desire (if not yet her finesse) towards hospitality.

Get the whole picture here: Dorris May kept a large, stellar garden her whole life, with which she fed not only her family, but also many, many stragglers and strays. She was hostess extraordinaire. Every holiday had its party, and every party had its mass of friends, family, and friends and family of friends and family. Leave no man behind. Leave no widow at home alone. There was always room at the table for one more plate.

It took me until she was gone to realize how such hospitality is a rare and beautiful quality. As a child I only saw that there were too many people to have to wade through to get another helping of ambrosia.

I am telling you about her now, six years after she passed simply because it time. Labor Day just passed, and with it, the last real weekend of summer. And these last few months things from her life keep showing up. Her recipe box and binder, for example, and the mirror.

(I thought the mirror was lost, or given to another lucky soul in the family tree. It is the only item I remember seeing in her house that I would have coveted to have as my own. I love that this mirror looks so whimsical and fantastic. It is a fairy mirror. I nearly hyperventilated when my husband brought it home.)

This is classic Grammie. It is gold and glitzy
and looks antique and expensive,
but instead, it is totally plastic
and she likely acquired it for a bargain.

I love this mirror. I cannot tell you how much I love it.

But where, oh where was my favorite? The Dill Dip? It wasn't in the cool recipe box. It was not in the ugly, plastic recipe binder from the eighties.

Finally I asked my dad about it. "Oh," he said. "Oh, the Dill Dip? That's in my head," he said. "You just take some mayonnaise and add some extra lemon juice and then sprinkle in a little dried dill."

"Dried dill?"

"Yup, dried dill."

I have never in my life used dried dill. I buy it fresh. And mayo? I am fond of mayonnaise enough, but I remembered the Dill Dip as something a little more sour creamy and thin. Maybe even a little buttermilk. Nope. Mayonnaise. Mayonnaise, lemon juice, and dried dill.

In case you can't tell, this is toast with cream cheese,
salt, pepper, cukes, tomatoes, and, the crowning glory, Dill Dip. One of the many ways...

Well, OK. It is what is it sounds like. Tangy, creamy, dilly. The simple side of Grammie.

Dorris May's Dill Dip

I had to go out and buy dried dill for this one--wanted it to be authentic. And it is what it should be. But the key here is simplicity. You don't like it dried? use fresh. You want it more tangy? add more lemon. Too tangy? Add more mayo.

1 cup mayonnaise, store bought or homemade*
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed (or 1-1 1/2 teaspoons fresh)

Combine ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Mix well, and refrigerate overnight. Serve with fresh garden veggies, preferably cucumbers, tomatoes, and sweet onion. Enjoy!

*Great Grandma Hawkins' Mayonnaise

I use an immersion blender, because I am lazy. If you don't have one, try whisking by hand. It is actually not that hard.

2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon paprika

Add slowly, in a thin stream the size of a pencil:
2 cups oil

Adjust seasoning, if needed, mixing well. Enjoy!


  1. i can almost see you going crazy over that mirror. and i certainly miss eating with you. lovely reflection on your grandma.

  2. hi Amanda,
    that was beautiful - thank you for sharing about your grandma and the gifts she sent out into the world.
    love you,