In the Weeds: Side of Ranch
There is a big problem, however, with working in Kansas. Thomas Franks did an excellent job of detailing several things he found wrong with both his and my native state, namely the rise of conservative populism, in his bestseller What’s The Matter With Kansas? But I was disappointed that there was nary a mention of what I believe to be the obvious “matter” in Kansas. Ranch dressing.
Seriously people. Ranch dressing could be the worst thing to happen to the culinary world since . . . honey mustard. I found a podcast whose host went one step further and proclaimed ranch dressing the worst thing to happen to humanity since cancer. There are 182 Facebook groups dedicated to the love of ranch dressing, including one titled “I’d Eat My Hand If It Was Covered in Ranch.” I include my sister in the group of Kansans that simply must have ranch dressing on everything from pizza and fries to steak and baked potatoes. She recently told me that her two-year-old son won’t eat anything unless it’s dipped in ranch, proof that the buttermilk epidemic is picking up steam with each generation. I know it’s not exclusive to Kansas, but there seems to be a certain sense of pride among diners in Kansas when asking for ranch. “Oh my gosh, do you want to get jalapeño poppers with ranch? It’s sooooooo good, trust me” a Kansas friend might say to me at Town Center in the same way I might say that we must try the new South African chardonnay with our seafood appetizer.
I could probably count on one hand the number of times I was asked for a side of ranch in three years at The Capital Grille. If someone requested a condiment at all, they were usually whispering embarrassed apologies and asked me to bring the seemingly offensive ketchup, A-1 Sauce or Heinz 57 to the table under cloak. But not ranch people. Ranch people are loud and proud. One of my favorite exchanges went something like this: Diner 1: “Can I get a side of ranch for my steak?” Diner 2: “What are you, twelve?” Diner 1: “What do you meeeeaaan? Ranch and steak is awesome!” Me: “Are you from Olathe?” Again, I didn’t really say that, but it would have been way more awesome than ranch and steak.
My chef husband was beyond sweet by agreeing to move back to my home state but has been almost emotionally damaged from the sheer volume of ranch consumed in Kansas. At his restaurant, he refuses to even refer to it by name and just calls for a side of “It” when necessary, which he says is dozens of times per hour. His Hispanic kitchen staff yells back “Salsa Americana!” I love that.
I continue my job interviews somewhere in the Hidden Valley. When the manager asks if I have any questions, I’m tempted to ask about the ratio of ranch to covers, but then again, I can pretty much tell by the size of the thighs in the booths. Mmmm, speaking of thighs, barbequed chicken is awesome with ranch.