When I waited tables twenty years ago, I constantly had to ask which salad dressing customers would prefer. In Texas, Ranch is king, and not just because of the nearby King Ranch, a ranch made up of 825,000 acres (3,340 km). For a while in the 1990s, Honey Mustard was quite a little trendsetter. But it always comes back to Ranch. In this city, there are always Balsamic Vinaigrettes and Jalapeno Cilantro Buttermilks to tempt your palate But people who eat Wonder Bread and vanilla ice cream and order cheese pizza will almost always choose Ranch.
Except old people. Old people LOOOOOVE themselves some Roquefort. The “blue hair” crowd that goes to matinees, the ones at IHOP at 5am and at Luby’s at 4pm, ladies with tight poodledog hairdos in sensible shoes and highwaisted elasticized pants–they like Roquefort. I don’t mean senior newbies who just started collecting Social Security checks. I’m talking the greatest generation, the ones disappearing at every breath.
And don’t second guess them; don’t clarify, “blue cheese?” Blue cheese is what you dunk chicken wings in. “Blue cheese” is not old school. Roquefort is. Roquefort is jitterbugging and Andy Hardy films. Let them be who they are.
I don’t care if you’re a vinegar & oil or a Zesty Italian person, I don’t judge. Okay, I don’t often judge. That is, I always judge. Nonstop. And although I can deal with Thousand Island, it does not lend itself to drizzling. Now that I think about it, we used to offer French as well, but nobody offers it any more. I wonder if it has gone the way of the woolly mammoth. Of course, this could all be a regional thing. Maybe some of you live in countries where French dressing reigns supreme. Surely not in France?
In any event, DO NOT invite me to dinner without assessing your salad dressing selection. I don’t need a wide array from which to choose. What I need is a fresh salad dressing. I don’t mean one that you whipped up from some Food Network recipe, with your own Greek yogurt and garden basil. No, I mean current. I mean made THIS YEAR. I mean NOT EXPIRED.
Maybe you’re not an expiration Nazi. Perhaps it’s never even occurred to you to CHECK the date on the lid, plain as day, put there for a reason to protect you from tuberculosis and polio, caused by rancid dressing. If that is you, then enjoy your childish naivete Because I PUH-ROMISE you that the very next home you go to for dinner, whether it’s Grandma’s or Cousin Kim’s or the cheery abodes of co-workers or friends, they will have an expired dressing on their table. And that is the downfall of civilization.
The last time I attended a birthday celebration for a co-worker at a nice home, with an enormously garish centerpiece, nice stemware, and table settings, the salad dressing had expired. I don’t mean last month expired. I mean 2011 expired. Oh, yes. And that is not the worst offender. I have attended holiday meals wherein dressings nigh on half a decade old were proffered for my taking. Presidents had been sworn in, sworn at, and sworn out since this bottle had rolled off the assembly line.
If you would never deign to serve me spoiled milk or festering pork, then you shouldn’t offer me expired salad dressing. If it’s two months expired, I will hold my sanity together and gulp it down, praying to the Lord to spare me both jaundice and yellow fever. But if I wind up in the emergency room, it’s on your hands.
And can I just remind you that dressing is about $1.50? Unless you’re all uppity and enjoy getting swindled, you should not be laying down a five spot for dressing. Tell you what, I’ll do you a solid and spot you THREE dollars just so that you can go purchase two dressings of your choice. And I’ll be a good sport and consume it. Even if it’s poppyseed.
Somebody is going off on a tangent.
So what about other dressings? Years ago, when customers would request Vinegar & Oil, it never came ON the salad, like all the other choices. No, we had to trot out those two little glass bottles that took up a lot of table real estate. I couldn’t understand why a person would choose such a flavorless dressing. But now that I’ve entered my forties, I get it. Not because I prefer it, but because it’s a healthier option. It’s possible that as my eyelashes turn grey and chin hairs come in, I may feel an overwhelming urge to eat Roquefort. Until then, remember the immortal words of Mark Hamill, “Acting in ‘Star Wars’ I felt like a raisin in a giant fruit salad, and I didn’t even know who the cantaloupes were.” Damn, if this isn’t a perfect quote for a site called “I Don’t Get It,” I don’t know what is.