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Just Bring a Dip

As a potluck contribution, dips have gotten a bad rap. But given a chance, they can be the stars of the show.

Illustration of two hands each dipping a chip into a bowl of dip; there are five dip bowls on a surface. Roshi Rouzbehani/Eater

A little while ago, a couple of friends came over to my house with about three cooler bags’ worth of options for both drinking and snacking. Only four of us would be there, but one of these friends suffers from the condition of being too generous and occasionally indecisive. So he thought he’d just bring a bunch of stuff — including several brands of canned hard seltzer, a lemon meringue pie, and a bag of garlic pretzels, if I’m remembering correctly — and see how things shook out. As is customary, there was also a container of hummus — but also another container of crazy feta, a spicy jalapeno feta dip made by Cava. As we unpacked the bags, I remember thinking, hey, this is a cool move. What if we just ate several dips for dinner? Why don’t people bring more dips to my house?

Dips as a party contribution have gotten a bad reputation. No matter the party you’re hosting, or the party you’re going to, there will almost always be that sad plastic container of hummus hiding on the appetizer table, waiting for someone to jam a broccoli floret into it. Years of putting these containers of dried-out, half-eaten hummus into my fridge during party cleanup made me believe packaged dips are always going to be a little bit of a bummer, and maybe we should just leave them at home.

But then my friend brought over that crazy feta. And I realized, with my stomach full of it, that when you let them shine, dips can very well be — and very often are — the stars of the show.

Some of humanity’s best foods are versions of dips: tzatziki, hummus, guacamole, hot crab dip. Dips are versatile, travel well, and can be stored in the fridge and revisited for many days post-party. They can be used as sandwich dressing between cold cuts and vegetables, or dolloped on top of a salad. Dips are welcome cargo for all manner of good vehicles, like El Ranchero tortilla chips, crisp celery stalks, or torn scraps of bread. So if someone brings a couple good ones to your house for a cookout, consider yourself a lucky person. Your guests are going to be very pleased by the variety of foods to taste, and you will have lunch for days. Plus, most dips can be served cold or hot, so there’s no need to worry about turning on the oven. Just make sure that there is always at least more than one dip.

So this summer, don’t look down on dip. In fact, the next time you’re invited to a barbecue or a picnic, just bring dips. You won’t have to worry about boiling a hundred potatoes or washing salad greens or waiting 24 hours for those popsicles to freeze. You can simply buy or make a nice variety of dips, portioned into individual Tupperwares that handily double as serving vessels. Pair up with a friend and tell them to bring along their ideal dip accompaniment, and it’ll be like the award-winning couple’s costume you did that one year. The more often you become the designated dip person at the party, the more often you make a dip worth serving next to a barbecue chicken drumstick, the less often that sad plastic container of hummus is going to show up alone on the appetizer table. Dips deserve respect, and it’s time to give it to them.

Roshi Rouzbehani is an editorial and portrait illustrator from Iran living in London.