The Department of Health and Human Services (“Servicing Humans since 1953”) released a rather startling announcement. They revoked the identity standard for French dressing. If I can quote the document:
“This action responds in part to a citizen petition filed by the Association des Vinaigrettes et Sauces (ADS). We conclude that this standard no longer promotes honest and fair transactions in the interest of consumers.”
What? Have I spanked dishonest bottles all these years?
Here’s the problem: the standard of identity is a “set of mandatory requirements” that apply to a product. Just like real champagne must come from the Champagne region of France and string cheese must come from String County in Wisconsin, French dressing must meet certain standards. They were created in 1950 and fixed the law of its composition.
The ADS wants more flexibility on this, so it can call something “French” that isn’t technically French. But I know what you’re thinking:
There is an Association for Dressings and Sauces?
It shouldn’t surprise anyone, I guess, but dressings are one thing and sauces are another. I imagine the HQ of the association, with a Dressage Wing, a Sauces Wing and a meeting room in the middle where they struggle to find common ground. The guy in charge of promoting French Dip watches the Minister Without Portfolio for dressings and plots secession.
We are fortunate to have a small number of dressings in this great country, but this is a recent development. Think 30 years back. What did we have?
The strange and seductive “Green Goddess”, which looked like some kind of pagan sauce. There aren’t too many slimy foods that claim omnipotence.
“Thousand Island” was also exotic. Where were all these islands? Between Canada and the United States, I learned later. There are actually 1,864 islands. This means that not all islands are participating in the dressing, and there might be room on the shelf for the Eight-hundred and Sixty-Four Island dressing, which tastes like Thousand Island, but 16% less. .
In Germany, by the way, it’s called “American Dressing”, maybe because they want to avoid stuff with “Thousand” in the name.
And, of course, there is “Ranch”. It’s a strange name. What do you want for a dressing, sir? “Great livestock-based farm liquid.”
It was created by Gilbert Ranche, a chef at the Café du Palais in Paris for the 1907 Culinary Exhibition, where it immediately caused a sensation. And by sensation, I mean “abdominal discomfort”, because the mayonnaise used in the bandage had gone bad. But it has nevertheless become popular, and when ordering it should be pronounced in Ronsh, as the French would. As in “the chicken is bad; I ronsh myself all night”.
Unfortunately, I made it all up. The name comes from the Hidden Valley Ranch, which started selling stuff in 1957. It’s now owned by Clorox. Truly. I hope there’s never a Reese’s-Peanut-Butter-Cup commercial moment in the halls of Clorox Laboratories: you’ve got Liquid Plumr in my dressing! No, you have salad dressing in my Liquid Plumr!
It’s the No. 1 dressing in the country, having beaten Italian in 1992. Blue Cheese is third. Thousand Island is fourth and my favorite – Caesar – is #5.
Fun fact about Caesar: he is not named after the populist Roman autocrat. According to the story, it was invented in Mexico by an Italian named Caesar Cardini, who ran a restaurant in Tijuana. I say “according to the story” because you can bet there is another version. They all have the same bushwa origin story which is a little too cute to be true.
“While serving as a cook at the Ohtehl Hotel in Pocatello, Idaho, Odell (Othello) O’Dell accidentally poured a raw egg over a salad he was preparing for a group of men engaged in the gem trade The response was so good that the men came back the next day, asking for “that good salad” and telling all their other gem trading friends about it.
“It turns out that most of the men were scammers, engaged in a variety of scams, particularly rubies, so their favorite salad was known as the Ruby-Con salad. Later, O’Dell the changed to “Caesar”, because he did not want his creation to be associated with the crossing of the Rubicon, which violated all the civil and political norms of the time.”
I know: what about Western clothing? It was my dad’s favorite. I was wondering if other parts of the world had eastern or northern dressing. It’s mostly French, but you can’t tell, due to government regulations. Now the world is open for endless innovations.
May a thousand islands bloom, as they say.
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