A visit with my boyfriend and sister-in-law always involves making something together. It’s usually baked goods—brownies or cookies from our favourite shared British cookbooks—or forts and paintings with my nephews. On a recent trip they made to New York, it rained all weekend, so we parked our butts in front of the TV and watched the entire second season of Girls while eating bag after bag of ripple chips. A bag of chips with my brother is not complete without French onion dip, a favourite snack from our childhood. We have a few of these: buttered popcorn, homemade milkshakes, Fudgsicles, and also my mother’s seven-layer dip. We then spent an afternoon indigo-dyeing some old shirts and nightgowns. That weekend of dipping food and dipping cloth between brief dips in the pool led me to wonder what it was about dip that is so much fun.
It’s convivial and cheering. It says: Share! Indulge! At a party, the symmetries of crudité platters, fondues and hors d’oeuvres provide an anchor for the shy (while the drink tray holds the promise of jokes and repartee). I consider dip a comfort food. I first encountered hot artichoke dip at Freeman’s in Manhattan in 2005 and have since seen it cropping up on menus across North America. On my own recent visit to Toronto, everyone in my brother’s Parkdale neighbourhood was raving about the hot crab dip with Triscuits at Hopgoods Foodliner. Topping my list of favourite Halloween costumes of all time is my friend Jason’s 2002 getup: a litmus test. He wore an all-khaki ensemble and had dip-dyed a pair of stockings and tucked his trousers into them. Dip-dyeing has been ubiquitous since Gwen Stefani’s 2002 Galliano wedding dress, making its way into the mainstream on skirts and sweaters and, in the past few years, hair. Sam Teasdale at London’s Bleach led the way by dip-jobbing her coterie of oft- photographed friends. While fashion blogs declare the trend on the wane, the scrappy term “dip-dye” is still giving the more luxe “ombré” competition and the slow fade is still making appearances, migrating to fingernails, shoes and bags.