IT IS DIFFICULT to determine when our eating culture tipped – or you could say immersed– Into the slippery realm of stimulated eating, but we might as well start 2017, which should forever be known as the year Hidden Valley Ranch debuted a mini-keg. The offering became so popular that the company claims to have to purchase all available sources of five liter mini kegs worldwide. And they were still sold out.
Around the same time, BuzzFeed released a video with the apparently rhetorical title, “Obsessed with Ranch Dressing? This St. Louis restaurant is for you. “The clip highlighted a place called Twisted Ranch, which had a lot of twists and turns on the ranch as a side sauce. That video went viral, causing pandemonium for restaurateurs in the Midwest.
A few years later, Hidden Valley has more than 40 variations on its ranch. Twisted Ranch advertises 39 and now sells its own bottles at Walmart, which has huge and colorful aisles filled with liquid flavorings. These seem to have been carefully designed to take foods that taste kind of bad and make them kind of good ̵
For the marketing director of the Hidden Valley Ranch, Jacquie Klein, the ranch is the perfect decoration to give every meal a “new flair”. A catchphrase from a recent ad campaign – “You either love it or you really love it” – seems to reflect a much broader change in the way we eat these days. Tostitos has scoop-shaped chips that you can use to scoop more of their new avocado salsa. Even IHOP recently introduced a special Maple Sweet & Spicy Syrup to be poured over the Chicken & Pancakes platter.
“There are still so many foods out there that people haven’t discovered the ranch as a condiment yet,” adds Klein, pointing out that Hidden Valley is also offering a new line of ultra-flavorful Secret Sauces (available in spicy, Smokehouse and original ranch). in Sriracha-like bottles to dribble over tacos, burgers and fries.
To coined a slightly less appetizing term, we live in the age of the food lubricant. Americans love to dip, dip, dip, and coat one thing in another, until now there are about a ton of ways to add flavor to your meal and Make it slide down your esophagus a little easier.
In a way, the rest of your meal is really a delivery device. The result can be delicious. But what if you have to keep greasing to eat?
THE TRUTH is that food lubricants fill a void created by convenience culture.
In order to have quick and casual dining – basically a style many imitate at home – chefs have abandoned the old-school methods of stewing and braising, which trap moisture in foods, in favor of dehydrating methods like roasting and grilling. At the same time, many restaurants – and yes, home cooks too – are falling victim to what Scott Randolph, who heads culinary consultancy Food & Drink Resources, calls the “ocean of equality” because they all use the same ingredients.
Over time, however, the best lubricants like ranch and barbecue sauce achieve what Klein regards as “mega-flavor”: They not only complement food, but can also help with sales. They also cleverly hack our senses. As you chew, the food moves slightly around your mouth to hit more taste buds and release more flavors. This causes your salivary glands to produce drool. “It literally swirls the food around our mouth, making it taste better that way because we’re getting more flavor,” says Jonathan Deutsch, Ph.D., who heads Drexel University’s food laboratory.
The result can be strangely addicting. There is some evolutionary psychology involved – our ancestors had to avoid broken teeth to keep eating – but Dipayan Biswas, Ph.D., professor of marketing at the University of South Florida, found that people are serving the same foods as z As cookies or brownies with slightly different textures, they will eat more of the softer and softer goodies, partly because we have been conditioned that foods with these properties (which might indicate added butter or cream) taste better than rough ones.
Making decisions becomes more complicated when the food becomes tangible. A recent study in the Journal of Retailing shows that people who believe they have high self-control will eat more of something if they throw away utensils and use their hands. The fact that food lubricants often appear literally painted with a neon sheen is also part of the prelude to food: Research has shown that the intensity of a food’s color increases the expectation of great taste among taste testers.
Regardless, we’re way past the point where a small dab will get you done. Randolph, the culinary consultant (who also works for IHOP and helped bring TGI Fridays’ still popular green bean fries to the market with the Cucumber-Wasabi Ranch), says most restaurants follow a landmark rule for dipping : Make them extra chunky and super clingy so the sauce becomes a big part of your next bite. Some are hot or spicy, but also hearty and offer multiple points of attraction.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL Part of Food Lube is that once you love it, you may not be able to eat without loving it. “If we keep dipping healthy foods in these sauces, we will be less exposed to the actual taste of the healthy foods,” says Dr. Djin Gie Liem, Associate Professor at the Center for Advanced Sensory Science at Deakin University in Australia. “It will be more difficult to develop a taste for these healthy foods.”
The fact that our food chain is designed to evaluate quantity and storage stability against variety and taste doesn’t help, especially if food alone doesn’t look so sexy. As General Mills found out a few years ago when he tried to artificially color Trix grain, only the color of an offering with more natural hues can be a departure. Many of us actually have to see Wildberry Blue or Grapity Purple to be excited.
Let’s talk openly about the nutritional problems that lubricants can cause: creamy is often the same high in calories, sweet often means sugary, and salty can be a bomb of salt. Some restaurant dishes combine these properties into an amusement loop that encourages more eating. “The [restaurant] The formula is: take a refined carbohydrate, fill it, fry it, add some cheese and sauce, ”says Lindsay Moyer, nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Food researchers have found that people who consume highly processed foods are more likely to eat faster and consume more calories.
The ubiquity of food lubricants can have greater consequences in the long run. In general, according to Liem, the more exposed you are, the more likely you are to have a preference. This so-called exposure effect is most commonly studied in children as it can be used to help them eat healthier things. If you don’t like it the logic works, just keep trying.
But folks who already like lubricants can get a bottomless vat pretty much anywhere. For example, if you love the Green Bean Fries from TGI Fridays with the Cucumber-Wasabi Ranch, they have found their way into the food freezer. Why keep trying something different? When we eat salty, sweet, or spicy foods, they generally trigger a dopamine hit, which explains why comfort foods feel really calming. However, repeated exposure can desensitize you to the extent that over time you crave higher levels in order to feel satisfied, adds Deutsch.
How should a modern food lover safely grease? Moyer doesn’t even try to convince people who want to eat more veggies to skip the dip. Instead, she suggests tzatziki, a yogurt-based goop that, like hummus, is overall healthy but has about half the calories per tablespoon of hummus. Hidden Valley also has its own Greek-style yogurt-based dressings, but continues to release updates to lines like Blasted, which include flavors like Ranch Dipped Pizza and Zesty Ranch Chip. No pizza or fries required.
This story originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Men health.
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