Growing Up In Nebraska: Tales of a Dorothy Lynch Dad
If you asked me to tell you I grew up in Nebraska, without telling you I grew up in Nebraska, I would answer that I have a Dorothy Lynch Dad.
If you don’t know what Dorothy Lynch is, let me break it down for you non-Huskers.
Growing up my mom tried her best to get the family to eat vegetables. Anything green. Anything that came out of the ground. Some sort of plant to go with the meat.
So we had often had salads. I didn’t appreciate them at the time. After all, they were crunchy and not sweet. What's up with that. But we did have Ranch dressing, so that made the iceberg lettuce and carrot shavings edible.
On the dinner table was also an ever-present bottle of Dorothy Lynch salad dressing for dad. You could try it, but you better make sure there's enough left in the bottle for dad’s dinner.
Dorothy Lynch is a brand of salad dressing that comes from Nebraska. It was invented, if that’s the correct word, in the 1940s in St Paul, Nebraska.
The legend goes, that a lady conveniently named Dorothy Lynch created the dressing for her husband’s restaurant in St Paul. It blew up. The people of Nebraska went crazy for this new salad dressing.
As far as legends go, that’s not as exciting as a legend of Nebraska’s Radioactive Hornets, (a real thing). But it works for what it is.
As the calendar changed to the ‘50s and ’60s, the company grew in popularity and gained a sort of hometown pride.
This was also the same time my dad was growing up in the home of Arbor Day. He’s a fourth-generation Nebraska kid, so something like this was definitely on his dinner table every night.
I always thought that my dad having to have his Dorothy Lynch was a 'just my family thing.' Until I met my wife.
Early in our relationship, down in Nebraska where we met, we saw a Dorothy Lynch display in a grocery store. She remarked about how her dad always had to have his DL fix at dinner.
I stopped, shocked. “Mine too,” I said.
Her dad was born in Iowa, but we didn’t hold that against him. He spent most of his life as a cornhusker, living in east-central Nebraska, with a bottle of D-Lynch holstered and ready to fire at any salad that presented itself.
So we started asking around. Several Nebraska grown people we knew had a similar story.
We’ve even talked to people that moved away from Nebraska. They love to reminisce about that orange bottle. You’d think it was delivered door to door by a milkman dressed like Tom Osbourne.
The parents and grandparents of the people we knew all had serious Dorothy Lynch dinner table rules. One guy would even watch Husker football games sitting in a bathtub of Dorothy Lynch salad dressing.
Okay, I made up that last bit. But it would not at all be surprising if it happened.
It makes sense. I have never bought, or seen anyone buy, a bottle. But it’s still around. Someone has to be putting it in their cart.
What Does Dorothy Lynch Taste Like
The best way to describe the tase of DL is that it tastes like Nebraska. I know that doesn’t help anyone who hasn't had it. Also, Nebraska kind of tastes like cabbage and hamburger. So, I guess we can say that NE is multi-flavorful.
But, specifically, it’s like a French or Russian dressing with some extra spices. It is orangeish-red, creamy, and tangy with a hint of sweetness.
It was a favorite in church pot-luck taco salads. The ones in that big Tupperware bowl.
The lettuce was neither cold nor hot. There was shredded cheese, taco meat (probably leftover from family taco night), and cut-up tomatoes. All of that mixed up with a generous helping of Dorothy Lynch dressing.
The Dorothy tradition has not survived into my or my kid’s generations. I could never eat it after I moved out. I mean, it’s fine. But every drop of the dressing was always soaked with nostalgia. It tasted like dreading t-ball practice in 1986 to me.
I rebelled by becoming a hot sauce weirdo. My kids are growing up in a house where dad always has to have his Tapatío on the dinner table.
Now that I’m older though, I’ve come to realize that there are infinitely more good memories of my dad, my grandpa, and family get-togethers in that orange concoction.
Maybe I should keep a bottle of DL in the fridge nowadays. I could take a swig of the stuff whenever I’m feeling homesick.
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