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Why Ranch Dressing is the Greatest American Condiment of All Time

Huge in pop culture (and in our hearts), the creamy dressing is so much more than just a salad topper.

Ranch dressing is not a neutral topic. Someone can talk about a yellow bell pepper without anyone's blood pressure spiking. But mention ranch, and suddenly, opinions about the creamy dressing start flying from infinite angles. There's always someone in every group who (wrongly) thinks it tastes like spoiled Band-Aids.

But, for every dissenter, there are at least 100 other people who know there is no pleasure on Earth quite like a ranch-drizzled pizza slice or homemade popcorn generously seasoned with ranch powder.

Given that March 10 is National Ranch Day, consider these 5 reasons why you should use America's favorite dressing to make it rain ranch powder on your chicken fingers and toss your grain bowls with ranch dressing. (Disclaimer: I literally wrote the book on this, which only makes me more qualified to sing ranch's praises and prove the naysayers wrong.)

1. It makes more than just salads taste better.

Yes, leafy greens are yummier when they're covered in creamy goodness, but ranch's power doesn't stop there. The unique flavor goes with just about anything, including chips, mozzarella sticks, fried chicken, pork chops, arancini, crispy potatoes, sausages, and more. In fact, you can even find ranch dressing ice cream at Little Baby's in Philadelphia or Sweet Peaks Ice Cream in Montana. Italian dressing could never

2. It has humble (mail-order) beginnings.

At its core, ranch is a simple combination of herbs and dairy (typically buttermilk). It was invented in the 1950s, when Steve Henson opened up a ranch (you might have heard of it; it was called Hidden Valley Ranch) in California, and quickly became known for his delicious buttermilk-herb dressing. Together with his wife, Henson started selling packets of ranch powder via mail-order. Later, in the early 1970s, HVR was bought by Clorox and propelled into mainstream food culture.

3. It's pretty much a cultural icon.

Much like the Cronut or rainbow bagel, ranch has a cult following. It jumped off the table and into the zeitgeist during the 1990s, after it surpassed Italian dressing as the country's top-seller. Everything escalated from there: '90s kids were graced with ranch-flavored chips and chip-flavored ranch. Ranch even made it into a well-known Simpsons episode and an iconic SNL skit, where Melissa McCarthy started the "HVR" chant heard around the world.

No snack food, or any food, for that matter, is safe from a ranch variation. Hidden Valley continuously attempts to one-up itself with merch ranging from graphic tees to a $35,000 sapphire-bedazzled bottle of liquid gold.

4. It's a delicacy on some menus.

Not to be relegated to grocery store shelves, ranch can be found as the star on some restaurant's menus. At Twisted Ranch in St. Louis, for instance, every single menu item contains ranch in some form, and they offer 33 different flavors of the stuff. (If that's not dedication to a craft, I don't know what is.) Alinea, one of the country's most Michelin-decorated restaurants in Chicago, once featured a menu item called "Salad: ranch dressing, soup, powdered." No pedestal is too high for ranch dressing to reach.

5. It's anything but lowbrow.

Ranch gets a reputation for being lowbrow, but even Gwyneth Paltrow (yes, the same celeb who's gone on record to say she'd rather smoke crack than eat cheese from a can) has a recipe for Old Bay ranch dressing in one of her cookbooks. So, someone please tell me where the line of classiness gets drawn in the sand?

In a world where we're constantly bombarded with new fitness classes with "blast" and "core" in their name, it can be hard to proudly maintain a healthy love of indulgent snacks. But true fans know that it's always okay to wave your ranch flag high, no matter how many forms of creamy dairy the stuff might include.

Ranch isn't just a salad dressing, it's the Great American Condiment. Hot sauce burns you, ketchup activates your acid reflux—but ranch will always soothe.

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Abby Reisner
Abby is a food writer, editor, cook, and digital strategist living in Brooklyn. Read more about Abby