My folks have the kind of house where people walk in the door and feel like they’ve come home. It always smells like my mother's latest culinary creation and it pleases me to no end when someone who doesn’t live there feels comfortable enough to kick off their shoes and dig in at the dinner table.
This outwardly barren time of year makes me think of gatherings that brought a full-bodied glow to our home.
Like all good gatherings, it started out small and became a necessity because it was such a success.
It was junior year of high school, and my friends and I were slogging through AP U.S. history. The class was a behemoth of information that made it feel as though we had to relearn the entire history of our young country. After nine months of that oddly rewarding torture and joy, I can safely say that our country didn’t feel so young. But nevertheless, the study session snack marathon was born.
It was a great excuse to spread our confusing notes out on the floor while erratically discussing various high school clique dramas, the next football game, Martin Van Buren’s presidency and why the school dress code was just getting ridiculous.
Meanwhile, we would devour my mom’s homemade pizza and chomp down on freshly baked cookies. At one point, my dad had to run out for more milk when one of my football-playing friends managed to gulp down an entire half-gallon on his own.
The sessions included more people with every exam - especially as the word got out about the fabulous fare. Just as well, we were getting better grades with each passing test. The sessions, which included a think tank of varied minds, helped us draw connections and remember facts and dates. To this day, I’ll never forget that barbed wire was essential to creating the state boundary lines in the American West.
When the weather turned cold, peppermint hot cocoa made the rounds and kept us caffeinated, along with my mom’s famous sugar cookies. Sugar really is tackling fuel when it comes to studying, after all.
The ritual continued at my house for some time. We would gather, study, gossip, laugh, memorize, laugh some more and feast. As we varied the menu, one particular snack began to emerge as king. And when we ate it at the study session, we all swore that it helped us to pass our exams.
It’s not fancy or sophisticated, but it sure is good. Whether you’re having a party or hosting a haven for studying (and gossiping) teenagers, this pizza dip is a true ace.
Ever since we discovered this recipe in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Food section in 2004, it has been a staple. Pizza dip can be dinner on a lazy Sunday afternoon or a quick fix if your family, friends or neighbors drop by for a surprise visit.
When the study sessions migrated with me to college, I always made sure I had these ingredients on hand – and some Fritos Scoops, which were made to go with this. Hands down, this dip promises good things - and good luck.
BB’s Famous Pizza Dip
Ashley Strickland is an associate producer with CNN.com. She likes tackling English toffee, channeling summer with sunflower cheesecakes, sharing green soup, cajoling recipes from athletes and studying up on food holidays.
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