Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ranch Dressing: The Tale of My First Dip

Greetings Kind Reader I'm so glad you stopped by today.  If you happened to have read my last post I went on and on about a contest I'd entered called 'Beat the Clock' and that I'd not won - heck, I didn't even get an honorable mention - but I was actually pretty cool with it.  And then I went on to tell you how I promised that my next posting here at WASWR would be about the first time I had a taste of 'Ranch Dressing'.  I even 'crossed my heart' and Lord have mercy...I think I'd better keep my word otherwise, I just might get smacked upside my writing head by the hand of the Great Editor in the Sky.

And so, without further ado, here's the wacky tale of 'My First Dip'...

It was 1981...I was 11 and summer was in full swing.  Oh, those were the days!  Days when I had nothing better to do than to be a kid and bask in the warm North Carolina summer sun with my one of my very best friends, Jeanna McClannon.  She and I had been buddies since 2nd grade when we met at Winecoff Elementary School.  The two of us were thick as thieves and we probably spent enough time at one another's homes as kids that our parents probably could have claimed us both as dependents on their taxes!

That summer of '81 was absolutely awesome for three reasons.

First: I was going to be in 6th grade at Winecoff which pretty much meant I was essentially a 'senior' at Winecoff.  It was an absolutely awesome feeling to know that I'd be able to walk into the gym and stare at the 5th graders leaving PE like 'oh, yeah, you wish you were as cool as we are' because that's the look the 6th graders who came before me would use to make we, their underlings, bend to their superior will.  Yeah, finally being in the upper echelon of the Elementary School strata was something Jeanna and I were totally stoked to embark upon when August rolled around.

Second: The music was AMAZING!  Seriously.  1981 was a year defined by some of the most awesome music ever.  EVER, period!  (Okay, the rest of the 80s were pretty good, too.  But '81 was the year when I realized that I (Me-Myself-The person writing this) had the ability to sway the American musical consciousness because I could actually BUY records with my own money.  To be honest, I think it's no coincidence that the summer of '81 saw the meteoric rise of hits such as Kim Carnes' 'Bette Davis Eyes', Queen's 'Crazy Little Thing Called Love' (oh, my just saying the name of the song takes me back to Saturday afternoons at the Frye's Roller Rink), and...of course, Rick Springfield's 'Jesse's Girl'.

Holy cow - that song was Uh-Mazin' and Rick Springfield's 'Working Class Dog' the album from which Jesse's Girl sprang to life was the first album I actually bought in person (my dad was a big believer in the Columbia Music House club where you paid for 1 album and then got 10 others for a penny).  Meaning, I asked my parents to drive me to the Carolina Mall so I could go to the music store and use real money (you know, the paper stuff that people used to carry all the time -credit cards were only for department stores and the elite who could afford to be members of American Express) to buy the 12" album.  I played that album so much, I think my little dog, Catherine, knew the words to all the songs by the end of that summer.

And when I wasn't busy rehearsing for the Summer Theatre/Musical that I did every year from the time I was 5 until I was about 14,  or at my house swimming in the snap together pool in my backyard or over at Lori Fisher's, one of my other best friends, house where we'd run around and play for hours...I was at Jeanna's house and since she lived considerably closer than Lori, that's usually where I could be found especially on Saturdays.

Why Saturdays?  Because we'd have sleep overs on Friday and then spend the day just being 11 years old having fun doing things like pretending (you remember doing that, don't you?) we were famous or we'd play games.  And then there was the time slot when we'd watch Casey Kasem's 'America's Top 10' and get all giddy when he'd start talking about some of our favorites like Rick Springfield.  Somehow, I imagine that there was a great, high pitched squeal that could be heard all the way to the moon whenever one of the first 'music videos' would be shown on CK-AT10 show.

Sure Dick Clark had American Bandstand and it was cool and hip.  But Casey Kasem knew he was on to something when he showed clips of short film clips of bands playing their music.  He single handedly brought a whole new medium to the American forefront - and some 30 odd years later we still have music videos.

Yes, yes, I know I said I was going to tell you about 'My First Dip' and I've not forgotten it's the
THIRD coolest thing that happened during the summer of '81.

You see, I was at Jeanna's house and we'd been down stairs watching good old Casey Kasem on Jeanna's big TV (the one at my house wasn't nearly as cool as hers - it had a remote!) and it was getting close to lunchtime.  Now if we were at my house, my mom and dad would have made up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or bologna and cheese with a little bit of mustard sandwiches or...if we were super lucky they'd take us to the McDonalds so we could get a Happy Meal.  Back then they came with the best short bread cookies with just a hint of lemon and in the shape of various McDonald's 'characters'.  I never understood why they stopped giving out those cookies...drat it too!

But when we were over at Jeanna's house her mother, Francis, would always fix something for lunch (yes, in the South we 'fix' our meals - we do a lot of 'fixin' of things fixin' dinner, fixin' to go to the store, fixin' to sing,'s a wonderful multi-purpose sort of term.  And people have the gall to suggest that we in the South are slow.  Seriously?  How slow can a group of people be who figured out a way to condense 'cooking/preparing dinner' - 'about to head out' to the store - and 'getting ready' to sing into such a simple word.  Slow?  Nay, nay!  Exquisitely time conscious - after all, how could we possibly have time to sit on the front porch sipping sweet iced tea if we're so dang busy saying all those unnecessary words when fixin' says it all?

Heaven's me, there I go again with my rambling!  Where was I?  Oh, yes, Francis would fix us lunch.  Sometimes we'd have hot dogs or maybe even hamburgers cooked on the grill (though technically they were grilled by Jeanna's father, Wayne. Which was only appropriate as he was a volunteer firefighter and had the best working knowledge of 'fire' and all things smoky)  And sometimes, Francis would create some sort of cool, summertime feast that we'd gobble down with some sweet iced tea.

And then there was this one day...this one glorious day when Jeanna and I walked into the kitchen and I saw it.  But what was it?  It was fancy and it was something that I'd see in color spreads in the glossy pages of Women's Day and Southern Living Magazines. Quite frankly I'd never seen anything so fancy in real life except for one time when I went to one of my relative's weddings.

I know it's just killing you to know what it is especially since you know it has something to do with Ranch I won't make you wait any longer.

It was a scooped out head of purple cabbage filled with this thick, creamy white concoction with all these little green flecks in it.  And the stuffed cabbage head was sitting on a bed of lettuce and surrounded by carrot sticks, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, zucchini and little cauliflower bunches.  (At this time in my life I 'liked' all of 3 of the things on that list.  Cherry tomatoes and celery sticks - but only if the celery was coated with peanut butter and give me raw cucumbers and I'm in Heaven)

The idea of eating those other  raw, earthy veggies didn't appeal to me.  Zucchini was like a pretend cucumber that people would make breads out of and cauliflower looked like whitewashed brains.

When I asked what the white stuff was in the center of the cabbage head, I was told that it was Hidden Valley Ranch dip made with sour cream.  And I thought gross!  I didn't like sour cream.  Anything that had sour and cream working in tandem could NOT be good.  Oh, what a naive child I was back then.

But both Jeanna and Francis urged me to try a little bit with some celery, as I sort of liked celery. They told me it was sort of like French Onion Dip (which I later learned was made with...sour cream) which I really liked especially on Ruffles.  So, I agreed thinking that I'd take one bite and then I'd swear off forever.

Boy was I wrong!  I cautiously took the celery stick and dipped it in the thick, clingy stuff.  I sniffed it and thought it didn't smell too bad.  Still I was adamant about actually tasting the stuff.  But I did it.


WHOA!  Talk an explosion of yumminess in my mouth.  It was tangy and sharp with this fabulous spiciness that wasn't 'spicy hot' or 'spicy sweet' it was just spicy in a way I can't really describe even to this day.

I dipped again.  Yes, I double dipped.  Remember, I was only 11...I was not properly schooled in the ways of proper veggie/chip dipping etiquette!  And who cared?  They were like my family.  I figured their germs were just good old fashioned ones like mine.  Heck, to be honest, germs were the farthest thing in my mind at the time!

I just wanted more of that dip!  I tried it on the carrots and the tomatoes and then the cucumbers (I knew they'd be AWESOME before I even dipped that veggie!)  And then...there was only the zucchini and cauliflower left to try.  Zucchini looked enough like cucumbers that I wasn't too apprehensive about eating it.  But then there was the cauliflower.  The whitewashed brains that's also...crunchy.

I thought not even the dip could make that stuff taste good.  But, what they hey?!  I went for it.

And I kid you not...a cauliflower lover was born that day.  Geez, it was awesome.  By the time lunch was over, Jeanna and I had nibbled almost all the veggies and dip that Francis had made and I wanted more!  But I couldn't have anymore because it was time for me to go home.

I immediately told my mother and father about the tasty, tangy, zippy Hidden Valley Ranch Dip that I'd gotten to eat and begged my dad to make some...for several days until he finally caved in and made it.  It only took a couple of bites to hook my whole family on the idea of raw veggies...crudites, if you'd rather, and ranch style dip (I say 'style' because there are so many Hidden Valley Ranch wannabes who come close but just don't have the elusive 'it' that HVRD has!)

And today, Ranch dip mix and its brother 'Hidden Valley Buttermilk Ranch Dressing' are staples in my pantry.  My daughter doesn't mind using the bottled HVBRD but there's nothing like the 'make it yourself' stuff that takes me back to my childhood and that very special day when I was 11 and jumped into the idea of raw veggie dip headfirst (well, veggie first!)

There you have it, the Tale of My First Dip and a whole lot of other extraneous stuff that just sort of jumped out of my fingers as I was working on this post.

I do hope you enjoyed your read and that you'll pop on over again real soon.  Who knows, maybe I'll have to tell you about the first time I ate a bagel. Or the first time I had sauer kraut.  Ah, good times...good times!

And that's all I've got...'til next time!