So, this happened while scrolling through Facebook recently: I stumbled onto a sponsored post from Hidden Valley Ranch for “Ranch Pizza”. It has 9,979 “likes”.
You know. A pizza. But with ranch dressing on it. Just like Nonna used to make (in an alternate reality where tomatoes are made of buttermilk).
Is the pizza now considered a salad too because it contains ranch dressing?
When I (reluctantly) followed the link out to the Hidden Valley website, I found the recipe, which calls for making a pizza “sauce” out of a combination of ranch dressing, tomato paste and cream cheese. Nothing about that combination sounds even remotely appetizing. Yet there they are, the five star reviews. The duh-I’ve-been-doing-this-for-years accolades on Facebook. As if this is a normal thing to do. But it’s not. This is not normal by any sense of the word.
There are other recipes, too. Hidden Valley Ranch Bread. Ranch Burgers. My personal favorite: Ranch Crispy Chicken.
It’s not that there’s anything inherently wrong with multipurpose ingredients. Dressings make great marinades. I put mustard in lots of things. But this is different. This feels contrived, because it is.
There’s a ranch dressing cult, you know. There has been for years. Its fans are legion because the product meets those “mouthfeel” requirements and is the perfect combination of ingredients Michael Moss writes about in his best-selling book, “Salt, Sugar, Fat”. We love ranch dressing for the same reason we love pizza and Twinkies and bacon. We love it even though ultimately, there’s nothing good for us in it. No matter how much lettuce we pile up underneath it.
Hidden Valley Ranch, just like every other food brand out there, needs you to find it indispensable though. You need to fall in love with the company’s recipes because its intended use—to top salads—isn’t enough to grow its business. You need Ranch Pizza and Ranch Crispy Chicken and those Cool Ranch Doritos now because salad alone is not enough to pay bonuses to the CEOs and presidents, and to make the parent company, Clorox, feel happy about the brand. Besides, the more Ranch Crispy Chicken and Ranch Pizza you eat, the worse you’ll feel. The fatter you’ll get and the more salads you’ll tell yourself you need to eat to get healthy. And of course, as everyone knows, a salad isn’t a salad without ranch dressing.