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7 Absolutely Fascinating Facts About Our Generation’s Defining Condiment, Ranch Dressing

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Imagine this nightmarish scenario. You are traveling abroad. You happen upon a pizza restaurant and decide to stop in for a meal. You ask your waiter for a side of ranch with your pizza, because you’re an American and you dip your fatty foods into fatty sauces. Your waiter gives you a perplexed look and doesn’t understand what you are asking for. You are trapped. You are afraid. You will not be enjoying your pizza tonight.

That’s because outside of the United States and Canada, ranch dressing is virtually impossible to find.

Ranch dressing is a fascinating condiment and perhaps the very defining thing about our generation. Yes, I just said the defining thing of Generation Y is a fatty, cream-based sauce that usually packs 150 calories and 15 grams of fat into a two-tablespoon serving.

You think you know ranch dressing? You have no idea. Heat up a frozen pizza, throw some wings in the microwave and bust out the carrot sticks. Time for you to really get to know your old friend.

1. It was invented by Santa Barbara, California, ranch owners Steve Henson and his wife Gayle in 1954. The dressing was so popular among the Santa Barbara ranch’s visitors that the Hensons began selling it to visitors as a stand-alone bottle. They sold their recipe to Clorox in 1972 for $8 million (which is the equivalent to $45.6 million today).

The name of Steve and Gayle Henson’s ranch? Hidden Valley.

2. Ranch dressing is virtually impossible to find outside of the U.S. and Canada. In countries that sell ranch-flavored snack foods (like Cool Ranch Doritos) they are called “American” flavor, which is just perfect.

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3. Restaurant ranch dressing tastes better than store brand ranch dressing for a reason. Most restaurants make their dressings from scratch, which will make any food taste better, not just your precious ranch dressing. Also, store brand ranch dressings contain more mayonnaise and vinegar for better preservation, which is why most store-bought brands are thicker and less savory. Hate store brands and want your very own restaurant-style fancy ranch dressing? Buy a packet of ranch seasoning and mix it with one cup of milk and one cup of mayonnaise. Boom.

4. Hidden Valley has changed the original recipe so much that it basically no longer exists. In an effort to make the dressing more convenient for its customers, Clorox came up with a new formula that allowed customers to not have to refrigerate every bottle, giving it a shelf life of roughly 150 days. They added more dried buttermilk (and other food additives) to the seasoning so they only had to mix it with milk, allowing it to preserve longer. This means that the original ranch dressing has been nonexistent for decades. We may never know what the original tasted like, unless Clorox feels like going all Miller Lite and releases a limited throwback version.

5. Ranch-flavored snacks did not become popular until the late 1980s. Frito-Lay was the first company to try its hand at ranch-flavored snacks with Cool Ranch Doritos, which launched in 1987. This, of course, led to a snack revolution and America’s obsession with ranch dressing and subsequent childhood obesity epidemic.

6. Hidden Valley Ranch is still the most popular brand amongst consumers. The five most popular ranch dressings are Hidden Valley, Kraft, Ken’s Steakhouse, Marie’s, Newman’s Own, and Wishbone. It’s good to see Ken’s Steakhouse get its due.

7. It is smoking any other competing salad dressings. The second most popular dressing in America is bleu cheese. Ranch dressing’s total sales doubled those of bleu cheese in 2013 and global information company NPD has dubbed it “the new ketchup,” because Americans are dipping all of their food in delicious ranch dressing. I won’t believe it until each and every pizza joint in the US has a bottle of ranch dressing on every table and stops charging me 75 cents every time I ask for it on the side.

It looks like the king ain’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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Brian McGannon

What do I love? I love happy hour, a good golf tan, and getting inappropriately drunk in public.

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