‘Bullet’ Joe and Big Boy

Bullet Joe

Back in the days of leather football helmets (not mandatory) and canvas-and-leather shoulder pads, my grandfather captained  his football team at Washington & Lee University to a Southern Championship in 1919. Nicknamed “Bullet Joe” because of his running speed, he also made all-Southern teams in 1919 and 1920. He’s in the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Grandpa Joe gave up football to get married and raise his family in Charleston, West Virginia. Too bad none of us inherited his athletic prowess. My father, nicknamed “The Professor,” absent-mindedly tripped over his feet and preferred books to the gridiron.

The next big football star from Charleston, Alex Schoenbaum, an all-American tackle for Ohio State in the 1930s, started what became the Shoney’s Big Boy restaurant chain.

Shoney's Big Boy

In honor of my grandfather, I made this unnamed beer and cheese recipe from my grandmother’s files for a Super Bowl party dip. Though the original calls for serving it over toast, like Welsh rarebit, I thought it would work much better as a dip. Scooping up a portion with a chip, one of my friends said, “It’s like a Velveeta dip without the Velveeta.” That works for me! Just make sure you make it at the last minute because it needs to be served hot.

Beer and Cheese Dip for ‘Bullet’ Joe (circa 1940)

Beer Dip


1/3 pound cheese per person, grated on coarsest grater. Add beer or ale to cheese in saucepan. Stir constantly. Add enough beer for consistency. When done cook only long enough for mixture to get creamy. Turn off gas. Add pepper, salt, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce. Serve on toast in a soup plate.


2/3 pound sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated (approximately 4 1/2 cups)

1/4 cup beer (I used Porter but almost any style will do)

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper

Paprika, for sprinkling

1. Place the cheese a saucepan, preferably with a heavy bottom.

2. Add the beer and warm over low heat, stirring frequently, until both ingredients melt together into a smooth, creamy consistency, about 5 minutes.

3. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and black pepper. Stir to combine.

4. Place in a serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika. Serve with chips. Makes about 1 1/2 cups of dip. If the dip gets too cold, reheat it in the microwave (assuming the bowl is microwave-safe) for about 30 seconds, then stir.


About heritagerecipebox

I am named after my great-grandmother, who only prepared two dishes, according to anyone who remembers. Somehow I ended up with a cooking gene that I brought with me from Richmond, Virginia to my current home in Boston, Massachusetts. I have worked as a journalist and published three cookbooks plus a memoir and a novel. This blog gives me a chance to share family recipes and other American recipes with a past.
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