No, this is not a review of commercial, over-the-counter, factory-made salad dressings. Rather, it is a chance for me to get something off my chest, to prove something, and perhaps even exorcise an old demon.
It has to do with Kraft salad dressings. When I was a kid, we didn’t eat a lot of salad at home, but when we did it was dressed with Kraft dressings. The idea of making your own salad dressing was, in the Cape Breton of the 1970s, as obscure and weird as building your own car or making home-made rubber boots. After all, why mix together some homemade slop like some kind of poor person when you can so easily buy a tasty factory-made and standardized product that is even endorsed on television?
My preference at the time was for Catalina, the reddish-colored thick goop that I have since learned is essentially just second-rate oil, fructose, and ketchup. I also liked “Italian” but only the “creamy” one because the oil and vinegar didn’t separate.
There was Kraft Thousand Islands salad dressing, which I wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. Thousand Islands dressing was pale and creamy (ewww!) and had some weird lumps in it. Those lumps, it turns out, are just chopped up pickles. Had I known that as a kid I might have tried it (I loved pickles!). However, it still would have been hard to get over that creamy texture and color. Remember, this was a household where mayonnaise was considered only slightly more dangerous than Agent Orange.
There’s a reason why, decades later, I am still haunted by these concoctions even though I haven’t touched a Kraft dressing in at least 15 years (actually, that’s not true: Mr. Steer, an old-time downtown Montreal restaurant has dispensers of Kraft — or at least Kraft-like — dressing on every table, and I did try it for old-time’s sake). The reason I have trouble letting go is the following double helix of entwined memory fog:
- Many people seem to think that Thousand Islands dressing is reddish or reddish-orange
- Hardly anyone seems to remember Catalina dressing, even though it is still available
- Here’s the connecty part: when people see or think of reddish-orange Kraft dressings, they always invoke Thousand Islands instead of Catalina
I want to express how much that drives me crazy, but I don’t want to get carried off to the nut house (where, I expect, Catalina is the house dressing on their side salads). So I’ll try to be restrained and civilized:
That drives me crazy.
Part of the reason it drives me crazy (OK, here comes the pathological part) is that, as the youngest of four children (some of the other three having been heartless and cruel towards their baby bro when we were kids), I have for my entire life suffered the phenomenon of feeling like I am never believed, and am never able to convince people that I am right, even when I am absolutely and unequivocally right.
For example, when I was a kid, it would be a bright and sunny day in June and I would say “Wow, look how blue the sky is” and my brother would say “No it’s not. The sky is green and it’s raining.” Nothing I could say would make him accept that it was blue-skied and sunny. He would taunt me with his green sky theory and if my cursed cousins where there they’d always side with him. My frustration would build and I’d finally go running into the house, crying. My Dad would say “Ask your mother” and my Mom would just tell me to stop crying and go outside — which she would not have said if it were, indeed, actually raining.
I’d like to get even more Freudian, but I’ll spare you all that torture and fast-forward over the next 40 years or so by saying that I still get a bit neurotic in situations where I know I’m right but nobody will listen. This manifests itself in many ways, and in many venues, and one of them is when, every couple of years or so, there’s a reference to reddish colored factory-made salad dressing, and people blurt out “Thousand Islands!” I say “No, it’s Catalina!” and people look at me like I have two heads and claim to have never heard of Catalina dressing. Then they continue to guffaw at length about Thousand Islands dressing. (No! The sky is blue and it’s sunny!!!)
This is not an endorsement.
So today, at the grocery store, I spotted a bottle of Catalina dressing. I think it’s the first time I’ve seen it in a decade. My most recent “Catalina/Thousand Islands” (sunny/rainy) episode still fresh in my mind, I was compelled to line up a bottle of Catalina next to a bottle of Thousand Islands and take a photo as evidence (see above).
So there it is, people. Catalina: nice and red. Thousand Islands: pale and lumpy. CASE CLOSED!