The McRib’s back, baby! Time to cue the canned excitement.
On November 2nd the elusive McRib sandwich returns under the golden arches to menus across the United States. The announcement came over McDonald’s Twitter feed, two decades after teasing those who meandered down highways to gobble down the six-inch pork patty. But what’s behind this fast food scrapple that has America on the edge of its car seat?
Well, for one, it’s a gastronomic achievement on par with what made the Model T Ford a grand success—a rack of ribs substitute that contains no bones for easier ingestion, it’s prepared with a microwave rather than a grill, and costs far less than what you’d pay for the real thing at a Texas-style eatery. Not to mention, it’s oblong shape makes chewing from A to B a breeze, especially for drivers.
This paradigm of pork was developed in thMcDonald’s advanced taste factory, called the Test Kitchen, by the same food scientist who devised the chicken nugget, Chef Rene Arend. And like those globules of mechanically separated chicken, this patty comes from a mold, and the meat derives from surplus parts of a few different animals. But you knew this already.
After a succesful trial period in Mid-Western markets, the McRib hit the scene in 1981 and Babe the Pig went on the menu at the thousands of restaurants McDonald’s owns domestically. It didn’t succeed as hoped, so after a few years the company pulled the McRib and dubbed it as a failure. But then it returned in 1994 to coincide with “The Flintstones” movie, starring John Goodman and Rick Moranis—Rosie O’Donnell even promoted the McRib in a dramatic period piece:
Ever since Rosie gave her chomp of approval, the sandwich appeared in locations as infrequently as the celebrity is entertaining. McRibs ran in limited stocks at random places, driving those who craved them into all kinds of frustration to snag one for lunch, dinner, or whenever else they popped up in searching.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a meteorologist who grew up on a pig farm justified his obsession by saying that the McRib supported his family’s business. This guy, Alan Klein, then developed an online mapping tool called the “McRib locator” where visitors can mark on a map where they discovered McRibs in stock.
But what this says about the way we live is sometimes, when it comes to food, clustered around the superficial. McRibs are popular because of their scarcity. McDonald’s knew this when they plugged the sandwich in “Flintstones,” that a scavenger hunt would develop out of sheer ironic obsession with what truly shouldn’t be desired. Frenzy cannot suffice for decent food, no matter how much its covered up by seasonings and high fructose corn syrup BBQ sauce.
It’s mystery meat, America, so get over this fad and eat some good, normal food.