I don't remember a time when I didn't know what Ro-Tel dip was, although it must have been sometime before high school, before we moved back to Texas. Maybe I had it in junior high, at Mackenzie Junior High in Lubbock, where the school lunches were great: sometimes they had burritos, which were deep fried, and set my standard for burritos. I have been disappointed ever since. The burritos I get now are not deep fried.
Perhaps my knowledge of Ro-Tel dip, even though I would not have known it by that name, came about when I learned what Frito pie was. I think I have discussed Frito pie here before: it's what you get when you slice open a bag of Fritos and pour chili on top of the chips, then scatter some grated cheese and some chopped onions on top. It is a delicious meal and one I ate occasionally when I was a lifeguard in high school and college. The snack bar at the pool served them. They probably cost 75 cents, which seems cheap now, but I was making only $3.35 an hour, so almost 25% of an hour's income was not to be sneezed at. Still, the call of Frito Pie is so strong that one throws financial caution to the winds.
Frito pie, Ro-Tel dip, chicken-fried steak - these are all foods that I took for granted when I lived in Lubbock/San Antonio/Austin/Houston. If you went to a party, Ro-Tel dip would be there because that's what you serve at a party in Texas. I just thought of it as cheese dip.
Then I learned that it had a name and that one could make it at home.
All it takes is Velveeta, a cheese to which I had previously turned up my nose but I have seen the error of my snooty ways, and a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes.
Which apparently cannot be purchased in Canada or in many parts of the United States.
Which means that when I mentioned on facebook using the leftover Ro-Tel dip on our eggs Sunday morning after our party Saturday night, there were people who knew not of which I spoke.
Which amazed me.
Because how can you not know what Ro-Tel dip is?
It's not like blessitsheart Milwaukee is at the heart of the culinary universe. But I can buy Ro-Tel tomatoes here. (Although I usually buy the store brand equivalent, as the pricing for Ro-Tel reflects that those cans are hand carried from Texas by virgins who walk only in the light of a full moon.)
So I was really surprised that there were people who live in far fancier places than Milwaukee who had not heard of Ro-Tel or of Ro-Tel dip.
What kind of horrible media environment is it that everyone can know who shot JR or if the glove doesn't fit you must acquit, but doesn't know what Ro-Tel dip is?
Here's what you do. You take a pound of Velveeta - and when you buiy that Velveeta, you buy it proudly! You don't hide it at the bottom of your grocery cart under the organic saran wrap and the locally-sourced salt. No, buy that Velveeta with pride. Proclaim to the world that you are not a sheep, you are an individual who likes food that tastes good. And there is nothing wrong with a little bit of processed, shelf-stable cheese every now and then.
Cut up the cheese into chunks. Put it in a saucepan. Turn the burner on low. Melt the cheese and open a can of Ro-Tel tomatoes. If you don't have Ro-Tel, use a can of diced tomatoes and throw in a chopped jalapeno. If you want a full meal with all the food groups, add some cooked bulk breakfast sausage.
Melt it all together. Get out the chips. Eat. Be happy.