Monday, September 24, 2012
I Rib You Not
As if Americans don’t pack on enough extra inches during the
holidays, the folks at McDonalds have decided to loosen our
collective belts a notch or two in December by bringing back the
Merry Christmas from the Purveyors of Pounds.
For the uninitiated, the McRib is a faux barbecue product which
appears periodically on the McDonald’s menu and consists of a “pork
patty,” slathered in barbecue sauce, topped with onions and pickles
and served on a roll.
They say the McRib has a cult following, sort of like Scientology for
the sandwich set.
People drive hundreds of miles, we are told, to wrap their pudgy
fingers around this concoction while licking the sauce off their
foreheads. There are blogs and a Facebook page for the devotees.
It even made a thinly disguised appearance in an episode of “The
Simpsons.” In it, Homer becomes addicted to Krusty Burger’s new
“Ribwich,” which is made from a mysterious animal Krusty refuses to
identify. Homer abandons his family to tour the country with other
rib addicts. The gorging stops only after Krusty announces that
they’ve eaten the mysterious animal into extinction.
Satire, yes, but satire is reality with a laugh track.
Absent in all this love is that if you pig out on a McRib and an
order of fries, you’re playing footsie with 1000 calories. That’s
OK is you’re a Navy Seal. Not so good if you sit at a desk all day.
Fine dining, it ain’t. Food critic Jeff Overley, writing in the
Orange County Register, said , “The pork patty has the spongy texture
of a Dr. Scholl’s gel insert. I imagine you could take a hammer to it
and it would just regain its original shape in a couple seconds, like
This is a product that, when originally introduced in 1981, was
pulled from the menu because nobody would eat it.
But never underestimate the power of marketing. It continued to be
reintroduced for short periods of time until 2005 when McDonald’s
announced it was being pulled permanently from the menu. But not
before launching a “McRib Farewell Tour.” Which was followed by a
“Save the McRib” campaign. All of which jacked up sales.
Its fans are so numerous that McDonald’s is bringing it out during
the holidays in hopes of offsetting a downturn in revenues due to
rising ingredient prices.
Speaking of ingredients, just what is in a McRib? We know there’s
no rib. So are the ingredients delivered by hose from a tanker
truck? Well, almost.
The McDonald’s people would have you believe it is primarily pork
shoulder meat. Many nutritionists claim, however, that the McRib in
fact contains “restructured” meat products like heart, tripe and
scalded stomach blended with salt and water to hold it all together.
The resulting mixture is shaped into a “meat log” and sliced to order.
While “meat log” sounds like a great name for a rock group, it
doesn’t have a lot of epicurean appeal.
If that’s not enough, the buns contain azodicarbonamide, a
flour-bleaching agent that is most commonly used in the manufacture
of foamed plastics such as gym mats and the soles of shoes.
You were expecting an organic feast at Chez Panisse?
Now,like an ancient single-cell sea creature, the McRib is evolving.
In Austria, they have taken our simple sandwich to the next level.
There, you can feast on “The McRibster,” which is essentially a McRib
that has been deep fried and topped with bacon and pepper jack cheese
slices and covered in a spicy sweet chili sauce, all served on wheat
bread sprinkled with corn meal.
Hold the barbecue sauce. Austrians wouldn’t know barbecue from
Beethoven. In essence, what they’re eating is Weiner schnitzel on a
The McRibster checks in at 640 calories. Wash it down with a stein
of Schloss Enggenberg Samichlaus Bier, finish with a slice if
Viennese chocolate cake.
Then call the paramedics.