An Ode to Ranch Dressing

One of the most important and bonding characteristics of any culture or society is food, and Scotland is no exception.  I have tried many different dishes and drinks since I have been here with varying success.

I love the family atmosphere of the Melville dining hall.  We all go through the same line and sit at long tables together.  One great thing about Erskine is that they have a lot of different options at meals, whereas here there tends to be a red meat option, a poultry or fish option, and a vegetarian option for the main dish, followed by 3 choices of sides and a dessert.  Of course there is the small salad bar, fresh fruit, and sandwiches or baked potatoes if you prefer.

I think one of my absolute favorite things about the Melville dining hall is the hot drinks machine: you put a mug under it and press a button indicating the beverage of your choice (hot chocolate, with water or milk; coffee, cappuccino, mocha, latte, tea, hot water for tea bags, or several other options) and it automatically fills the mug.

I also like the fact that there are fewer meal options; I am much more willing to try an unknown dish because I don’t have the option to stick with a safer or more familiar option.  As with any kitchen, sometimes dishes are a success and sometimes…they’re not.  But I never go hungry and mealtime conversations are always incredibly enjoyable and involve lots of laughs.  When the staff kicks us out of the dining room, we tend to carry on our conversation in the foyer downstairs until gradually we all realize that we have some place to be or homework to do.

I have recorded several videos of me trying different unique foods, and as I cannot upload them directly onto the blog site I have put them on youtube. Links are below:

You may recall me mentioning that I attended a ceilidh my first Friday in St Andrews in honor of Robbie Burns day; while at the ceilidh we had a traditional meal involving haggis.  Here is my reaction:

The second strange food that I tried was Marmite.  In my right mind I may have been a wee bit more wary of trying something advertised with the slogan, “love it or hate it,” but in my defense I was still half asleep (I have yet to become accustomed to waking up at 7:30) and agreed before I realized what I had agreed to. Here is the Marmite test.

At the Six Nations rugby game there was an abundance of haggis, various kinds of pies, and alcohol.  I chose to indulge in one of those, namely Scotch pie.   I figured, what better time to try another traditional Scottish delicacy than at a national rugby match?  My experience was recorded and you can see it here:

speaking of haggis....<br /><br />
we passed this bus on North Street one night. only in Scotland.
speaking of haggis….
we passed this bus on North Street one night. only in Scotland.

– – –

Now, you may be wondering why the title of this post refers to Ranch dressing. Well, let me tell you why:
There is no Ranch dressing in Scotland.

I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

It astounds me that the number one salad dressing in the United States is all but impossible to find in the UK.  It has also been an adjustment for me, because I am one of those annoying people who eats ranch dressing with everything : salad, chicken, vegetables, bread, French fries, pizza, pretzels…you name it.  And the Brits unfortunately like to eat everything with vinegar, which means that now I dip my fries–or chips, rather–in mayonnaise because that is one of the only options that I like.

However, I have some wonderful friends, and I am now a very happy American.  My friend Scott had an interview in London a few weekends ago; while he was there he searched around until he found a Whole Foods store that sold Ranch dressing and brought me back a bottle. Granted, it is not Hidden Valley, but it’s delicious nonetheless and the bottle is over half gone already.

But wait–there’s more!  About a week ago I received a care package from a friend in the States; inside was SIX packets of Ranch mix, Hidden Valley style, which means that I am set on dressing for the remainder of my time here and I have plenty to introduce it to friends who have suffered their entire lives without experiencing the delicious taste.

My care package also included, among other things, a box of Cheez-Its and 2 bags of cheddar Goldfish, neither of which can be found in the UK (except perhaps at specialty stores, but who has time to find one of those?).  They taste of home and it’s wonderful.  I have introduced several European friends to both goodies so far, and they have been a hit all around.

I think that is enough talk about food for now (are you hungry yet? I am! I’m heading off to dinner), but I have tons more pictures to post and lots of exciting adventures to tell you about.  Until then, have a wonderful week and God bless!