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My sister always has ranch dressing and Tostito’s queso dip in her fridge. First: This post is not sponsored by either. Second: I usually go straight for one or the other when we make a snack. Maybe both, but not together. A few weeks ago I spent a weekend with her in Chicago, and mentally added ranch to my grocery list. It’s been way too long.
Ranch dressing and I go way back.
One of my favorite summer memories is the Pizza Hut buffet lunch. My mom cooked for us almost every day; she didn’t prefer we eat out, much less at Pizza Hut. But there was one near my dad’s office, so in the summer, she took us there every other week or so to have lunch with him. His patients were probably waiting while we went for a third or fourth plate, played the Paperboy arcade game, or attempted the retro Pac-man.
My buffet routine was the opposite of most kids: I made a huge plate of salad first. And by “salad,” I mean ranch dressing pile. I started with the crispy iceberg lettuce chunks, added cucumbers, green peppers, and carrots (all of which I liked because they’re crunchy), then poured a heaping ladle of ranch over all of it. I topped that with a big spoonful of salted sunflower seeds. I topped THAT with more ranch. It was my most favorite way to make a salad (ahem, ranch pile), and I enjoyed every last bite.
I didn’t dip my pizza in ranch until college. As a kid, UGH GROSS. Ranch was for bowls with a few lettuce leaves, some other crunchy green things, and a lot of sunflower seeds. As a college student, developing an eating disorder and restricting more by the day, I discovered and loved ranch with my $1 pizza on Friday or Saturday nights. It was the best. It was everything I wanted. Both were things that shouldn’t see the light of day. (Do not try to have $1 pizza at noon.) But in those midnight moments, my cravings and childhood nostalgia couldn’t resist. (There may have also been something else at play on those weekend evenings.)
I can tell you when I stopped eating ranch dressing.
I can’t recall the exact day or month, but I know the exact life phase. It’s a cream-based dressing, so that meant “unhealthy” in my disordered, over-analytical nutrition student mind. It wasn’t “good.” Too many calories, too much saturated fat. It got the X with many other foods I once loved and once enjoyed without a calorie count adding up in my head. I wouldn’t dare order it in most restaurants—maybe on rare occasion when I wanted to have some sense of normalcy—and certainly wasn’t dipping the pizza I probably wasn’t eating in it anymore. For years to follow, I was anti-ranch dressing. Vinaigrettes or olive oil and vinegar on the side, all the way. For the “good” fats, of course.
It’s back in my fridge now.
I bought some sort of organic ranch dressing at the market near our condo, because everything there is organic. I don’t need my ranch dressing to be organic, but this bottle happens to be. It also has a bit of a peppery-kick to it; I’m in. I made a salad the other day, sans iceberg lettuce, with avocado, fresh summer tomatoes, salted pumpkin seeds. I tossed it in ranch dressing. I’ll do it again until the tomatoes are gone, then I’ll buy more tomatoes at the market next week. I’ve been dipping my carrots in ranch. If we have pizza anytime soon, I’ll ask for ranch on the side.
I’m reunited with ranch dressing, and it feel so good.
I’ve been preaching the principles of Intuitive Eating, and expressing my anti-diet philosophy, for a little over one year now, yet every week or month I notice one way or another where I still have room to fully adopt each of those principles. Permission to eat all foods. Have I really granted myself that? The fried chicken moment was one example of this self-reflection: I actually did feel restricted by something that I once didn’t consider a food rule. I still eat beans, eggs, the occasional tofu, and veggie burger. I’ve also had a real burger, BLTs (another childhood fave), and chicken enchiladas. I look at a menu and decide what sounds good in that moment. Maybe it’s a salad with ranch, maybe I’ll want balsamic vinaigrette. I get to choose.