Tonight, after a spectacularly long nap, my brain cells kicked in: I realized I didn't know what was exactly in the ranch dip I was smothering my carrots and celery in. I mean, I could always realize with my tongue what ranch flavor was and then deduce key facts:
- the red speckles in the dip are probably carrots (or orange M&Ms)
- there's probably some onion in it, since it tastes like garden vegetable cream cheese and because ranch-flavored popcorn and Lay's chips had green herb-like dots on their ranch powder
- it's probably mayonnaise-based because of its opaque white non-shade
- I was right on all three conjectures - even though they weren't that hard. The taste of ranch that I couldn't place comes from a heavy dose of buttermilk, though.
- This 2005 Slate article, which provided me with the fact that there is such a thing as the Association for Dressing and Sauces that monitors flavor trends for dips, dressings and sauces. Since I am, after all, a proud nerd, I call dibs on the analysis on the flavor trends' longitudinal data. Also, the association had it right, Greek was totally a trend this year...
In that little thought experiment, I began comparing ranch to other dips: Thousand Island (the chili sauce equivalent to ranch -- no way on my fries), ketchup (the sourness provides a contrast to my beloved onion strings), and honey mustard (slightly hot on the tongue, but not enough to alarm most Americans' spicy range). Then I realized that besides the mayonnaise and the fat, that the buttermilk gives a tang to the dressing, and that maybe ranch on chicken fingers did make a little sense.
But ketchup and French dressing, still for the win.
P.S. In the same inquisitive spirit that led me to wonder about ranch, I just looked up French dressing. Apparently it's not just the tomato based, sweetened version of a vinagrette, but it's supposed to be a generic name for all vinagrettes. That said, the wiki article also acknowledges the presence of nationalistic French dressings:
"Those from outside the U.S. may best picture its appearance and consistency as a very high quality interior house paint the color of terra cotta."