Dude, No Ranch For Me

Ranch dressing is everywhere and loved by nearly everyone. It’s a tough time to be alive if you’re not a fan of Ranch dressing. I know this for a fact, because I’m not a fan of Ranch dressing.

Sometimes saying that out loud is exhilarating because I’m standing up for individuality in salad dressing choice. But sometimes it’s as shameful as “Hi. I’m Alana, and I have been Ranch dressing sober for 20 years.” In a country where Ranch dressing is the de facto dressing of choice, my lack of embrace for Ranch is a social flaw.

Ranch dressing started humbly enough being served at the Hidden Valley “dude” Ranch in Santa Barbara in the late 1950’s where people loved it enough that the owner’s started selling it either as a packet of dry ingredients to be mixed at home, or as a finished, refrigerated salad dressing. The product was only available regionally near the ranch until the early 1970s where it was bought out by the Clorox company, who still owns the Hidden Valley Ranch name. The big conglomerate take over is where, in my opinion, things went awry.

Clorox reformulated the recipe the dry mix to make it more convenient for home cooks where they could now substitute regular milk for the traditional buttermilk. They also reformulated the recipe for bottles of dressing for shelf-life, making a product that did not require refrigeration. They made Ranch a technological new-age dressing that has been America’s number selling dressing since 1992, over-taking the worthy adversary of Italian.

Ranch dressing, I can admit, can be pretty good…if it’s made the way it’s intended with buttermilk and mayonnaise as the base for traditional herbs and spices like parsley, onion, and dill. Find a restaurant that makes their own Ranch (like Arnold’s here in Cincinnati) and you will be wowed. That’s why Ranch became popular in the first place.

Most Ranch isn’t made with care, it’s made with science, formulated like so much of our modern mass-produced food to feel good in our mouths and taste like we want to put more in. People pour Ranch dressing on everything from pizza to burgers. Ranch flavor is on every snack food and you can dip every Ranch snack and anything else into the Ranch dips. I’ve seen people pour so much Ranch on salads I want to hand them a spoon to enable their desire. There is a genuine out-pouring (if you will) love for Ranch dressing that is truly inspired.

So many people eat Ranch and all its iterations automatically, literally without thinking, I believe it is the opiate of the people. Possibly (well, I think probably), we can trace all our national woes to the rise of Ranch dressing or Ranch flavoring. #RanchConspiracy

Ranch flavor, which is what delicious real Ranch dressing has been reduced to, does not work for me even though it is every where I look. Ranch flavor is ubiquitous in our food choices. You can even buy pizza flavored or taco flavored Ranch. That is to say, the flavor of Ranch is so popular, it is now recognized as something to be treated as its own thing which is therefore eligible to have flavor added to it. The flavor we’ve created is Pizza-Flavored Ranch Flavor. I don’t even know what that means, but it’s popular with the kids so it must be good, right.

I’m not getting on board the Ranch train. When the waiter says the salad comes with Ranch, or the pizza is drizzled with Ranch, or the dipping sauce is Ranch, I get a little testy. All of these Ranch-taste experiences or sensations (as the ads like to say) taste fake to me and I’m not going to support it. Blue Cheese, Thousand, Italian or some snazzy vinaigrette, I’ll take anything over Ranch. So there!

Mostly though, I’m mad at Ranch dressing because it has so overwhelmed the dressing sector at the grocery and on restaurant menus, that my favorite salad dressing has been reduced to a retro-memory. For my money, I’d rather snuggle up with a salad topped with Green Goddess than stupid shelf-stable Ranch dressing any day.

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