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Gimme a smile: Meanwhile, back at the Ranch

Posted: June 3, 2012 - 12:02am

Do you worry about aliens taking over Manhattan? Do you lose sleep wondering if the Mayans were actually right about the end of the world? Save your strength. There’s a much more immediate and insidious threat to the American way of life lurking in condiment aisles across the nation. I refer, of course, to ranch dressing.

Unbeknownst to many Americans, vegetables in this country have become more and more enslaved by the proliferation of ranch dressing. You can scarcely find a raw vegetable in its natural state anymore. It is inevitably accompanied by a side of ranch dressing.

True, if you go to the grocery store, you’ll find a variety of bottled dressings to choose from. Ranch sits innocently on the shelf next to French, Italian, Thousand Island and Raspberry Vinaigrette, among others. But in the wild, in church fellowship halls and the homes of children, ranch dressing reigns supreme.

If you give a kid a carrot, he’s going to ask for ranch dressing to go with it. Go ahead, try it. Ten to one you’ll hear that ranch request. If you go to a church potluck, someone (it might be you) will bring a veggie tray with carrots, celery, broccoli, those yummy grape tomatoes, and ranch dressing in the center. It’s always ranch. You can’t eat any of those veggies without it.

My son’s elementary school got a grant to serve fresh fruits and vegetables as a school snack. To their credit, they didn’t limit the fare to carrots and grapes. The kids sampled green peppers, kiwi, endive and even jicama. I’d never seen a jicama before, so my son and I took a field trip to the grocery store to view one in its natural habitat. It looked like a cross between a potato and a white grapefruit, and tasted surprisingly like watermelon. The school kids enjoyed all these exotic vegetables — all dipped in ranch dressing. What the heck, a green pepper slice is as good as a carrot when it comes to serving as a ranch dressing delivery device.

According to Wikipedia (that definitive source of all knowledge), ranch dressing has been the most popular salad dressing in the United States since 1992. Soon its takeover will be complete. With a loyal following of kids who can’t imagine eating a raw carrot without it, ranch dressing stands to conquer all.

Don’t get me wrong — I like ranch dressing. And I’m well aware of its magical properties of making disgusting vegetables palatable to the most finicky child. I’ve even paired it with cooked vegetables — much easier than making a cheese sauce, that other panacea for getting kids to eat their green vegetables. Green beans really do taste better when dipped in ranch dressing.

You gotta hand it to the makers of ranch dressing. They’ve accomplished a feat that only one other food maker has mastered — the art of creating a food that almost all children will eat. Aside from chicken nuggets, can you think of any single semi-nutritious food that has such universal kid appeal as ranch dressing? At fast food restaurants you can even get your chicken nuggets with ranch dressing as a dipping sauce — an unbeatable combination!

So forget about raspberry vinaigrette — you can find a recipe for raspberry ranch dressing on the Internet. Might as well bow to the inevitable, turn a blind eye to the plight of fresh vegetables everywhere, and succumb to the lure of the ubiquitous ranch dressing. Don’t even think about eating your carrots and celery au naturel — just reach for the ranch.

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