Tag: Love

An Ode to Ranch: How I Fell in Love With America’s Condiment

What are your first memories of middle school? Catching a glimpse of your crush’s braces-crossed smile? Straining to remember your locker combination? Half-heartedly digging through your backpack to “find” the homework you knew you’d forgotten at home? My earliest middle school memory took place in the cafeteria, on the first Friday of the month: pizza day. I was sitting across from my friend Allen, mouth agape, as I watched him douse his slice of pizza in ranch dressing. I’d never seen anyone do that before.

“You ever try this?” he asked, grinning.

“No,” I said, trying my damnedest to decipher the swirl of cheese, tomato sauce, bread, and tangy buttermilk. It didn’t make any sense. Ranch was for salads, not pizza. That combination simply couldn’t be good… could it?

“It’ll change your life,” he said, offering me a bite.

Allen was right.

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The marriage of ranch and pizza is said to have begun in the South, when Pizza Hut began offering it as a side with their pies, but we’ll never know for certain who came up with that brilliant scheme. I can only deduce that the person in question was a bona fide genius.

However, the practice of dipping pizza—or even just the crust—into ranch dressing has its detractors. In protest of the growing trend, one Dallas pizzeria famously charges $ 1,000 for a side of the stuff, and more than one publication has sounded off on the matter.

In a recent article published by The Washington Post,Ranch Dressing Is What’s Wrong With America,” Ben Adler suggests, among other insults, that ranch is something other than perfect.

Clearly, that’s an absurd statement, and the article was met with controversy (just scroll down to the comments section). But while there are die-hard ranch fans and people who want to see every last bottle dumped out, if anything I think Adler proved ranch is more beloved than it is scorned.

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Ranch dressing was invented in 1949 by a cowboy from Nebraska named Steven Henson, while working as contract plumber in Alaska. In 1954, Steve and his wife, Gayle, opened a ranch near Santa Barbara, California, and would often serve their guests a special dressing made of buttermilk, mayonnaise, and herbs. Their home was called Hidden Valley, and the dressing would eventually be known as… well, you know.

In 1972, the entire dressing brand was bought for a staggering $ 8 million by The Clorox Company, but it wasn’t until 1983 that the more popular non-refrigerated bottle hit supermarket shelves. Less than a decade later, ranch would become America’s favorite condiment, and by the mid-90s, it had become a staple far beyond salads: Kids would trade anything in their lunch for a snack-size bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

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As a kid, I was never one to consume ranch with reckless abandon. But after that day in the cafeteria with Allen, my taste for the dressing started to grow. Soon I was regularly using it as a condiment for pizza and fries. The only thing holding me back was the knowledge that my family would ride me out of town on a rail if I polished off the entire bottle the way I really wanted to.

But eventually I left for college, where rules were meant to be broken. In our dorm, my friends and I engaged in what I can only refer to as “culinary experimentation.” Ranch on burgers. Ranch on steak. Ranch on beans. Ranch on pie. Ranch and Diet Coke. OK, we never did the last one, but there is such a thing as ranch soda.

I never considered the possibility that I might take it too far, but in the end, I flew too close to the sun on wings sprinkled with dill and dried parsley, and the inevitable happened: I made myself sick. I know plenty of people who lost their taste for tequila after an overambitious night in college. But me, I overdid it on the ranch. I put the bottle back and didn’t touch it for over a year.

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When my favorite condiment and I got back together, it was—appropriately enough—in the Midwest, where the ranch dressing flows like wine. I was sitting in a bar, waiting for my girlfriend to finish class. We were doing the long-distance thing, and she was finishing a degree from the University of Wisconsin. I ordered a pint of Spotted Cow and the fried cheese curds, which were served with a plastic tub of ranch dressing for dipping. I stared at it with cautious interest, like a bear gazing at an open picnic basket. I knew what ranch had done to me in the past, but I wasn’t ready to pass over a regional delicacy. Gingerly, I dipped the curd in the dressing… and promptly went back in time.

Suddenly, I was in eighth grade all over again, in that noisy cafeteria with Allen. Enough time had passed, and my heart was ready to accept the treasure trove of buttermilk and herbs. I’d rediscovered white gold. Elated, I texted my girlfriend, who responded with understandable confusion. She’d grown up in Massachusetts but had spent enough time in the Midwest to know that ranch was king. Despite being in the middle of her class, she texted me back: What? Yes. Ranch is effing majestic. How could you not know it’s good on cheese curds?! Or like… on everything??

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The question remains: Why is ranch so good on everything? NPR pondered this a few years ago and came to the conclusion that ranch is so good just because… well, it’s delicious. It’s tangy, creamy, smooth, and naturally, full of calories. It tastes good because it makes you feel good, like eating an ice cream sandwich or waking up for work—only to realize it’s Saturday.

I’ll never understand the snobs who think ranch isn’t high-end enough to be delicious. Like other classic comfort foods, it doesn’t require expensive, difficult-to-procure ingredients in order to be amazing, but that doesn’t make it any less valuable to me. However, ranch did end up teaching me a valuable lesson in temperance. It may be delicious on everything—and I do mean everything—but I’ve learned to use the American classic the way it was intended: in moderation, savoring each and every bite.

Show how you ranch out your favorite foods with a dip, dunk, or drizzle of Hidden Valley Ranch. Snap a picture of your Ranched Out dish and then visit RanchOutSweeps.com to enter. You can also enter by sharing it on Instagram or Twitter with #RanchOutSweepstakes. NoPurNec18+ Rules @ HiddenValley.com Ends:4/19/17@11:59am PT.

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Dating Other Women Helped Me Love My Own “Imperfect” Body

How Dating Other Women Helped Me Love My Own "Imperfect" Body

The first time I fell in love with a woman, I was 16, and everything about her seemed perfect: her curly red hair, her freckles, the way she moved from one yoga position to the next so effortlessly she seemed bored. Her name was Ruby.

In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I over-romanticized that first encounter, as one does as a teenager in search of self. We were at an outdoor yoga class at my local park, and everything seemed to shine brilliantly with magic: the pink lemonade that I sipped at the entrance; the soft, dewy grass between my toes; and the smile of the girl who set up her mat beside me.

While I couldn’t see it at the time, of course Ruby had imperfections. But there was one thing I remember that would have been called a “flaw” by most beauty standards, though I didn’t see it that way: She had cellulite—small, sweet dimples appeared on the tops of her thin legs. And even in a public space, she didn’t bother to cover them up or seem embarrassed.

That sort of carefree spirit was so foreign to me, and I envied it. I had such a distorted body image, partially formed by an all-girls’ school obsessed with making us look like “little ladies,” that I couldn’t even recognize myself in photographs. I wished I had Ruby’s confidence, her grace, her aura of self-acceptance. I remember going home that day and stripping down to my underwear. I twisted my spine to look at my cellulite in the mirror and thought, “I have something in common with a goddess.”

In my social circles, I’ve often encountered the assumption that queer people inherently have fewer issues with body image than our straight peers, but I can assure you, dating women is hardly a cure-all for body image issues. In my case, dating women has sometimes felt like an obstacle to self-love. The women I date always seem to be thinner than I am; they’re also traditionally prettier, softer, more feminine. And while I’m trying to unlearn the idea that being fat is “bad,” it’s always hard for me not to compare myself to my partners and feel like I’m inferior. When you’re held to the same standards as the person you’re dating, it can be especially easy to see your so-called shortcomings.

Self-love isn’t a linear journey.

When my girlfriend grabs her stomach fat and talk about going on salt-water cleanses, it’s difficult to look at my own body and think that I look fine. I sometimes find myself worried that strangers see us holding hands in public and think I don’t deserve to be with the woman I love because of the way I look.

But on the other hand, there’s transference. The beauty I saw in Ruby’s “flaws” made it easy for me to see beauty in my own. I met Ruby back when I still believed in the concept of “leagues” — she would be out of my league by any mainstream teen movie’s standards. I thought she wouldn’t like me the way I liked her because I wasn’t as conventionally attractive, but she proved me wrong. She didn’t just love me; she actively pursued me. She didn’t just think I was beautiful; she worshipped me the way I worshipped her.

This surprising turn of events led me to think two revolutionary thoughts:

1. Maybe I’m attractive. Maybe, just as I loved Ruby’s thighs and untamed eyebrows, she loved something that would be considered “imperfect” about me—my soft arms, or my strange chin.

2. Maybe Ruby loved me for reasons other than my appearance.

Ruby and I didn’t last, but loving her was a learning experience. In loving her, I ultimately opened the floodgates to loving myself. When I saw beauty in her imperfections, I learned to apply the same eye to my own body. I found myself thinking of the things we call flaws, and wondering why we’re trained to think this way.

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I wanted Ruby not because she was “perfect”—she wasn’t—but because there was a light inside her that shined for me. So why should I hold my body to a beauty standard that I don’t hold my romantic partner to? When I try to be full of love, I can shine as brightly as Ruby did, and my so-called imperfections can’t stand in the way of that.

Self-love isn’t a linear journey; I still fluctuate between treating myself with the gentle kindness I deserve and wanting to cut my stomach off with a knife. But slowly, I’ve managed to transition out of thinking, “I hate my body” on a daily basis. For a while, I replaced it with the thought, “Actually, I look great!” But now I try to remember the most important part: “It doesn’t matter how I look. I love myself anyway.”

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