From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR
There are bigger problems in the world, sure. But since most of us eat a couple of times every day, this wild and frankly tacky prejudice against Thousand Island dressing really needs to stop.
I know it’s only a condiment, but enough’s enough.
Probably this is a losing battle. We have for years asked people to stop using the word “ironic” incorrectly, yet some running back “ironically” hurt the same knee he hurt two years ago (nothing more than a sad coincidence) or “the hot tamales were ironically served cold” (a tough break, for sure, along with poor service).
Annual occurrences are “the ultimate” and some champions win even though “everyone was against us” (really?, even your mom?) and others win because they are a “team of destiny,” which is so logically stupid and lazy that I’ve almost quit fighting the battle. Ironically. And ultimately.
But even knowing the odds are stacked against us – we are destined to fail! – we’ll jump here from the grammatical world, where we’ve made all the progress of a turtle stuck on a fencepost, into the culinary world.
Why? Because we are a Thousand Island people. We are from West Monroe and Mangham, from Mansfield and Oil City, and we deserve to be heard, and served. Just like the “bleu cheese” upper-crust crowd.
The bottom line is that not all restaurants stock Thousand Island dressing. I have researched half a dozen lists of Most Popular Dressings (those aren’t easy to find, sort of like Thousand Island itself) and found Thousand Island to rank from seventh to third on the Desirability scale. She’s a pretty popular dressing.
Yet often when I order it, I’m looked at as if I hadn’t shaved in a few days, have my hat on and haven’t washed up. Which is often the case. But still, I’m a paying customer. Or would be, if they had Thousand Island.
We can tell what the waiters at the non-Thousand Island establishments think of us. “He’s about to order the possum. Or the Rack of Roadkill.” And all because those of us born on Thousand Island don’t prefer the more lyrical French or Italian, or the vogue “vinaigrette.”
“Ranch” is what’s No. 1, and Ranch sounds much less exotic than Thousand Island. I wouldn’t touch Ranch with a 10-foot fork. Ranch is more popular than the Kardashians and “The Bachelor,” but as is the case with those two shows, I don’t have the taste for it. If you do, we Islanders think that’s fine. So why are we exiled?
Entire meals hinge on this. You’ve been there: you crave a certain entrée – most often a steak – but the kitchen doesn’t have “your” dressing. Steak is not as good without your favorite dressing on your warm-up salad. So then you have to re-think, and you’re hungry, and that seldom works well.
The bottom line is that Thousand Island is a poor man’s dressing. It’s the Mendoza Line of dressings. It is what it is. Why can’t the fancy eateries just stash a bottle in the icebox and swallow their pride so we can swallow our salads?
Probably no one made my point for me better than John Donne, a pastor and poet who lived, died and presumably ate salad from the late 1500s until his passing in London more than 450 years ago this very month.
You might have forgotten his name since English 202 class, but you haven’t forgotten some of his most famous phrases. He thought he was going to die, a victim of London’s Black Plague, in 1623. (He didn’t: he made it several more years.) Unable to get out of bed, certain his salad-eating days were numbered, he wrote what might be his most famous reflections. His inspiration was death, as in his bed he heard from his window the church bells, their ringing a musical broadcast that the Plague had claimed another of London’s lives.
Thus inspired, he wrote that we should “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Why? Probably because all they have is Ranch.
But it could be because, as Donne went on to scribe, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” Ha! There is is! He is basically warning us that although we are each “part of the main,” as it were, that the world can be cruel, that the “scattered leaves” of the books that become our lives will one day be bound again, and by a Perfect hand, but that in the meantime, just in case, it never hurts to bring your own dressing.