The Mysterious McRib

What is it about a riblet-molded fused meat rectangle smothered in barbeque sauce that would have everyday food aficionados clamoring to their local McDonalds?  Yes, you guessed it, it’s a McRib.  I’m perplexed and quite amazed with the overwhelming urge that inspires so many.  Maybe it’s because it is the unofficial launch of fall or that it only comes out “for a limited time.” 

All in all, when it came out in 1981, it wasn’t a huge seller.  In fact, it was taken off the menu in 1985 and only reappeared for special promotions.  Then, in 2005 there was the “McRib Farewell Tour” as it was to be permanently removed from the menu.  Then there were sequels as the “Farewell Tour was had in 2006 and 2007.”  For a sandwich that wasn’t popular, it is, or seems to be.  So much so, that it is a permanent part of the German McDonald’s menu.  Go figure, they are the home to some great things like Bratwurst…and also home to blood sausage. 

Back in 1981, I was working at McDonald’s in Topeka, Kansas.  For some of you, McDonald’s may have been your employer of choice growing up.  As a college student, free food and getting paid to rustle burgers, manage 10-1 meat, and master the drive-thru was a good gig.  I learned back then “time to lean is time to clean.”  Mom loved that saying.  One day, we were introduced to “The McRib” and there, at 6:00 in the morning, next to the sausage, we were searing these pork patties made to look like ribs.  After a while on the grill, they were put in a barbeque bath for another five hours until lunch was served.  Now, some 30 years later, there is still a strange attraction to these imposters to their long lost cousins…real ribs laboriously smoked, cooked at low temps for what seems days. 

What is it about McRib?  The sauce, it’s accessories…onions, pickles, the bun?  Is it that it reminds us of life with all its messiness?    Is it the insatiable longing throughout the year for something that we can’t have that makes us want it even more when it is available?  Whatever the attraction, those of you who count down the days to the release know what I’m talking about….right?

There are other things that have a similar mystique and timeliness.  Take Pumpkin Spiced Latte’s and Peppermint Stick ice cream to name just a couple. 

If you’re thinking about a McRib right now, consider this…500 calories, 26 grams of fat, 44 grams of carbohydrates, and 980 mg of sodium.  However, that Starbucks 16 oz. Pumpkin Spiced Latte has 310 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 49 grams of carbohydrates.   And,  ½ cup serving of a popular Peppermint Stick ice cream has 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 18 grams of carbohydrates.  (and who really only has ½ cup of ice cream?)   So, to make the McRib a little more appetizing, consider SPAM, no not the kind that occupies your inbox.  But wait, a 2 oz serving of the all-American potted meat product only has 174 calories, 15 grams of fat, 2 grams of carbohydrates, and 767 grams of sodium.  Here’s the answer…give in to the annual temptation and just savor the succulently smothered, barbequed bathed fused pork product known as McRib at 10:30 a.m. for “brunch” and drop the bun.  Hit the gym and spend an extra hour on the treadmill, schedule your colonoscopy the next day therefore chasing your McRib with a delicious Golytely chaser (that’s the liquid that purges the stomach) and then call your cardiologist for a follow-up appointment. (that’s for the fries you know you will get) 

What can we learn from this “mystery meat called McRib?” 

  • Life is short, eat dessert first and when there is room, consider a McRib because we don’t really know if it will be back, ever again.  Ha.
  • Remember that you can talk yourself into many things “you can’t have” but in the end, is it worth it?  In the case of McRib, many would say yes.
  • Marketing, marketing, marketing can make even the most cultured taste buds “give in.”
  • It is a once a year thing in the U.S.  In Germany, it’s there year-round.  But, they’ve traded it in for vegemite on the menu in Australia.  You can order that on your breakfast English muffin there.
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3 comments on “The Mysterious McRib

  1. Chris says:

    Hi Val, That’a a good & interesting story! I’ve never had a McRib before, but maybe someday I will one. You’re a good writer just like my Dad is! When do you have time to write these stories with your busy life?

    Have a wonderful weekend!

    See you next week at AGFT

    Your Friend,
    Chris

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