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“I’d eat my hand if it was covered in ranch dressing"...

Saturday, April 7, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:38 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Jared Jordan dips a slice of pizza into a container of ranch dressing at Gumby’s. Ranch is not only the nation’s top choice for salads, it has its own fan clubs.

That says it all, even if not in a grammatically correct manner.

It’s the fervid title of just one of the 184 Facebook groups dedicated to the one they love. Mizzou’s own group (seven members) has a slightly less adoring title — “I Love Ranch Dressing” — but its members are equally rabid.

That kind of homage is why ranch — herbs, spices, mayonnaise and buttermilk — has been the nation’s best-selling salad topper since 1992 when it overtook Italian to claim the No. 1 spot.

Yet ranch isn’t just for salads anymore; it seems as though these days the young are dipping almost anything and everything into this thick and creamy concoction.

“I didn’t eat ranch with anything but salad when I was growing up,” says MU sophomore Sam Branham. “But now, I eat it with literally everything, especially with anything frozen, like poppers.”

Pizza, chicken, onion rings, potato skins, french fries and veggies also make the list of foods commonly coupled with the dressing.

On planetranch.com, site creator Matt Craig lists the top 10 foods he prefers with a ranch accompaniment. Every week, Craig also names new dishes he’s combined with the dressing in the “What I Ate With Ranch” section. The site includes a map that shows what countries have integrated ranch into their diet, as well as recipes, pictures and the history of the dressing.

Ranch dressing was born at Steve and Gayle Hensen’s dude ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1954. According to Hidden Valley’s Web site, it soon became so popular the two opened a factory to produce and sell dressing mix. In 1972, “Hidden Valley Ranch” was sold to Clorox for $8 million.

The Hidden Valley label now offers not only the original mixture but nine other varieties, such as B.L.T Ranch with bacon and tomato, cheddar and Parmesan and spicy ranch.

A local magazine has named Gumby’s pizza on Broadway as the restaurant most adept at using ranch in exciting ways.

“Putting ranch with pizza adds another element,” says co-owner Noah Schmidt. “It creates interesting flavor profiles.”

Gumby’s, it must be noted, uses Marzetti’s ranch instead of Hidden Valley’s.

Liz Beers, a junior who’s a member of the Mizzou Facebook group, agrees that ranch intensifies the taste of food. “It improves the flavor of everything,” says Beers. “Try it sometime: Eat a food that you normally don’t put ranch on and then put ranch on a little bite. You’ll never go back.”

Branham admits Gumby’s is responsible for his obsession. As a ninth-grade student, he and his friends ordered Gumby’s pizza every Friday night before going out, and soon enough ranch became a tradition in his everyday diet.

And for those who don’t especially like the ranch taste on pizza, Branham says the dressing has another benefit: cooling down a pie just out of the oven.


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