A vainglorious defense of a humble condiment
Angela Evans with Mazzio’s ranch and pizza
I am the person/monster responsible for the invention of dipping pizza in ranch dressing. This confession either inspires within you feelings of contempt or adoration. Given the widespread popularity of the trend, I sense your incredulity; but indulge your protagonist by taking a little trip to a middle school cafeteria on pizza day in Stigler, Oklahoma.
No matter the quality, pizza has always been a treat, whether the foam-crusted Totino’s from the oven or a luxurious slice from Andolini’s. In a small town with one pizza joint, my middle school cafeteria on pizza day was always electric with eager pre-teens and pizza party vibes.
As a latchkey kid, I’d often add a healthy squirt of ranch dressing to add pep to haphazard meals. I was very aware of the magic effect it had on pizza rolls. On one fateful pizza day, I asked my favorite cafeteria lady—in a very “Oliver”-esque approach—if I could get a tiny bit of ranch dressing for my pizza. The pliable angel acquiesced to my doe-eyed ploy.
The mysterious dollop of white liquid on my pastel plate caused a stir from the kids at my table. I dipped my floppy, tepid pizza into the ranch. Flares of whispers and stares flitted around the cacophonous dining hall like I had bitten the head off a playground squirrel.
The long table of opinion was split. Some schoolmates declared me a heretic. Others asked coyly if they could try some. From that pizza day forward, the union of ranch and pizza was forged on the Oklahoma palate, and I relished my role in its discovery.
Alas, those were the “salad days” of ranch dressing devotion—a time when asking for ranch with pizza indicated you were a risk taker, like a gourmand with a mullet. Now, it is considered déclassé to make such a request. Ranch dressing devotees must use low whispers and street slang to get the goods.
Despite the hoity-toity stigma, the fact remains: We Okies love our ranch dressing. In fact, Mazzio’s Pizza is single-handedly providing us with almost 161,000 gallons of it a year.
Many ranch dressing aficionados consider Mazzio’s to be the gold standard among all other restaurant ranch offerings. And popular opinion isn’t just window dressing. Each of their 123 stores sell more than 1,000 gallons of white gold a year to pair with their wings, pizza and, yes, sometimes even salads.
Julie Selby, Mazzio’s school programs and nutrition specialist, is also one of five siblings who helps keep the family business stay at the top of its pizza game. She explained how Mazzio’s ranch dressing became a bona fide phenomenon.
“We don’t cut corners with our ranch,” Julie Selby said. “We make it fresh in house every day, just like our dough and our sauces.”
For a short time, Mazzio’s relied on the tried-and-true Hidden Valley Ranch packets to supply their salad bars. As the dressing’s popularity grew in the late ‘80s, Mazzio’s decided to develop its own powder mixture. Mazzio’s mixes a proprietary ratio of mayonnaise and buttermilk with the spice packet, the proportions shrouded in secrecy.
“The demand for ranch dressing in the U.S grew in popularity, and the same was true with our dressing,” Selby said. “We started selling a 3.25 oz. container of ranch in 2003, and it was so popular that by 2006 we [began offering] the family size.”
If the dinky 3.25 oz. cup isn’t enough to meet your needs, the family size is available—16 oz. (two cups!) of glorious ranch in one discreet container. Selby mentioned that sometimes customers swing through the drive-through just to purchase the large-sized ranch dressing.
“We have had many requests to sell this on the shelf, and we have researched it,” Selby said. “We have yet to find a manufacturer that can make it for us, bottle it, and [make] it taste the same.”
The numbers don’t lie, folks. Ranch dressing popularity has not waned, so why do we continue to condiment-shame one another? I may not have invented dipping pizza in ranch dressing, but I always feel a twinge of pride when I see other ranch connoisseurs relish each drop. So, I encourage my fellow ranch dressing enthusiasts to hold that slice of pizza pie high and dip with dignity! Drown the naysayers’ words in opaque pools of creamy freedom. No more hiding behind vinaigrette regret. Confidently ask for that ranch dressing and transform an ordinary salad into an avant garde-n salad. Together, we can overthrow bourgeoise inhibitions and revive the ranch revolution. Viva la ranch!