I spend too much time thinking about ranch dressing. Good Ranch – Midwestern white gold that I *assume* is made with buttermilk and a packet of Hidden Valley but, like hot dogs and chicken nuggets, I find it’s best to not dig too deep – is a part of my lifeblood. In junior high, my daily lunch was a turkey and cheese sandwich with ranch instead of mayo, alongside a bowl of croutons and shredded cheddar cheese covered in ranch dressing. In high school, I deepened my palate with a bagel dipped in ranch alongside a taco or a piece of pizza smothered in ranch. Today, I keep a running list of restaurant reviews in my head that goes something like this: “Sardi’s: Food good, service good, ranch bad.”
Because there is Bad Ranch. It’s only natural – if you’re going to have something so perfect as Good Ranch it must have an evil twin to balance out the universe. In my opinion, Bad Ranch is every other kind of ranch that isn’t Good Ranch.
I have a dear, wonderful, tastebud-less friend who will consume absolutely anything called ranch dressing. If you handed him a bottle of French dressing and said, “This is ranch,” he would eat it. I do not have that kind of palate. Here is how I can tell the difference between Good and Bad Ranch:
- Bad Ranch dressing remains in the same salad dressing-esque state no matter how it is stored. Good Ranch, when left out, has the consistency of completed melted ice cream. If refrigerated, it turns into a pudding.
- Bad Ranch, like all other dressings, looks like a blend of natural ingredients and oil and will sometimes separate if it sits too long. Good Ranch is as white as the driven snow (It also has speckles of something in it, which – fingers crossed – are spices) and never, ever needs to be shaken up.
- Bad Ranch comes from a bottle or is handmade by a Michelin chef. Good Ranch is usually found on a buffet or provided in little plastic containers.
- Good Ranch tastes like salad/pizza/french fry/breadstick/white carb magic. Bad Ranch tastes like calories.
While I am probably alone in my pickiness about Good versus Bad Ranch, I know I’m in pretty good company when it comes to ranch dressing in general. A different friend of mine works at a Good Ranch restaurant in Grand Forks, and when I said I couldn’t get enough of their ranch he told me it was the most popular item on the buffet.
I got a real kick out of his comment because it basically confirmed my assumption that ranch dressing has been elevated to a comfort food in North Dakota (and possibly the whole Midwest). Some places are known for pizza, or fried chicken, or cheesesteaks, or crabs; and while we have a smorgasbord of our own deliciousness around here – knoephla soup, walleye, hot dish, and wild rice casserole, to name a few – I love how one of our VIP foods is a condiment whose sole purpose is to make other foods better. It’s all very North Dakota Nice.
Anyways, I needed to have surgery many years ago, and afterwards the surgeon told me,
“You should really limit your dairy intake for the next year or so.”
Which was basically her way of saying,
“’Hope you like your food gross!”
Speaking of comfort foods, Midwesterners love us some dairy. Many of our regional staples are founded on butter and topped with shredded cheese (for example, I once stopped at a sushi restaurant in a small town in Minnesota and my California roll came mixed with cheddar). Also, and most importantly, I was 99% certain that Good Ranch was made from at least one dairy product.
As mild inconveniences go, that year was rough. While the world is now full of dairy-free, milk substitute products, back then it was basically “hold the cheese,” “skip the creamer,” and “I’ll just have the cone.” One of my favorite restaurants introduced one of my favorite desserts – baked brie – during that time, which meant that I got to cry dairy-free tears into a piece of chocolate cake. But since the surgeon said “limit” and not “eliminate” dairy, I dab-dab-dabbed as much Good Ranch as I could on anything and everything: Tortilla chips. Baked potatoes. Butter buns, hold the butter. Thanks to ranch dressing, I made it through those 365 days without any lasting trauma (or whatever would have happened if I had had too much dairy). All hail Good Ranch.
A couple of weeks ago, Kyle and I went to a restaurant where the ONLY dressing option was ranch. The photo above is from the menu, and I also included a photo of Good Ranch in its natural habitat.
This week’s news is about pen pals, teen suicide prevention, and a food pantry vegetable garden. Read on.
Students and seniors in Bismarck have spent the last year writing letters to one another, and recently had the chance to finally meet in person (and also paint fishing lures). (KFYR TV)
Minot’s Mary and Angus Ellingson are a mother-and-son graduatin’ duo. (KX Net)
Two Bismarck second-graders – brother and sister Blakeley and Berkeley Chaske – performed three powwow dances to teach their entire school about their culture. (KFYR TV)
This one is a little self-serving because Fargo’s Todd and Elizabeth Medd are good friends of ours, but I can tell you their mission is totally selfless: their 4-6-3 Foundation is channeling time and finances in order to educate and prevent teenage suicide. (Fargo Forum)
On the other end of the state, Mike Maples of Bismarck is preparing for a North-to-South motorcycle ride to raise awareness of suicide prevention. (KFYR TV)
Four Dickinson friends raised $700 to purchase items for foster children in honor of their friend, Liz Anna Fadness. (Dickinson Press)
Bismarck and Mandan will once again be providing free summer meals for students. (Bismarck Tribune)
Dickinson’s Jocelyn Kreitinger was a princess for a day, thanks to Make-A-Wish North Dakota. (KFYR TV)
High school juniors in Granville have planted a vegetable garden specifically to help fill up the food pantry. (Minot Daily News)
The Hillsboro Dollars for Scholars gave out a record-breaking $116,500 in scholarships to 28 students this year. (Hillsboro Banner)
Fourteen-year-old Wyatt Rollman of Granville took home the bronze at the Rifle Junior Olympics. (KX Net)
(Like Amanda Silverman Kosior and/or North Dakota Nice? Check out last week’s story about The Spiders.)