Invented in the 1950s, ranch is now far and away the most popular salad dressing in the country, according to a 2017 study by the Association for Dressings and Sauces, an industry group. (Forty percent of Americans named ranch as their favorite dressing; its nearest competitor, Italian, came in at 10 percent.) And it has spread far beyond salad.
It is a routine dip for chicken wings, baby carrots, French fries, tortilla chips and mozzarella sticks. It is incorporated into American classics like macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, potato salad and Thanksgiving-turkey stuffing. And it is drizzled over tacos, Tater Tots, casseroles and — perhaps most controversially — pizza.
I’m sure that I had ranch dressing before I turned 14, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. When I transferred schools in 7th grade and made new friends, I noticed that my friends buying hot lunch (school lunch), loading their trays up on what was being served, yet saving a sizable amount of tray space as they got through the line. Once through the line, they darted over to the condiment cart where that void on their lunch tray was filled with ranch. Once seated and ready to eat, EVERYTHING on their tray was dipped in ranch–pizza, burgers, sandwiches, fries, tater tots, salad, veggies, etc. Being the follower that I am/was, I started dipping my lunch items in ranch and it became a food staple all through college and into adulthood.
In fact, it’s the secret sauce to my signature breakfast sandwiches and burritos and barbecue chicken pizza.
Since he was a toddler, my middle child, Ryan, now age 6, eats every lunch and dinner with a side of ranch. EVERYTHING he eats including steak, corn dogs, fish sticks, beef and broccoli, spaghetti, apple slices, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, corn, etc. gets dipped in ranch.
A funny story from a couple of years ago: I came home to him dipping plain tortilla chips in ranch. At first, this looked and sounded awful. When I asked him if he was enjoying what he was eating, he told me that it tasted just like blue Doritos (Cool Ranch). At the ripe old age of 35, it suddenly dawned on me that Cool Ranch Doritos were just ranch flavored tortilla chips. Mind. Blown.