If McDonald’s had ever tasked Botticelli with creating a sandwich, it would be the McRib.
The McRib may be an abomination dripping with bbq sauce to you. Pork entrails shaped like a small rack of ribs sloshed in barbeque sauce and topped with raw onions and pickles on a bastardized hoagie roll.
For me, it is something like, if hedonism and convenience had a child that was a sandwich. It is so much of a guilty pleasure, I might believe you if you were to tell me the McRib was made of unicorn bits, fairy wings, and sauced with the tears of long-extinct animals. The McRib is a nightmare if the nightmare is being had by a lucid dreamer that loves fighting hordes of shadowy bbq flavored monsters in their sleep.
Personally, the McRib is Custer’s Last Stand of McDonald’s sandwiches. I don’t eat anything else there. Still, any time the McRib is available for a limited time, I am buying that sandwich nearly every day for that limited time. In the 90s, I picked up several Flintstone Movie commemorative glasses with the “Grand Puba Meals” during the “RocDonalds” movie promotion. I visited Chicago once in the 00s and was shocked the McRib was available there. I skipped actual Chicago food for a weekend of McRibs. In Boston, I fought for days through the crowds at the Children’s Museum McDonald’s location, all for my McRib fix. When I worked at a TV station, I printed out a bunch of smiling McRibs and taped them to the walls all over the office. I was that excited.
My love for fast-food was probably exacerbated by the stretch of middle school through college that marked my adolescence to manhood. I attended a military school from 7th grade through my senior year and then went off to college for four more years. I wasn’t used to home-cooked meals daily. I was fenced in by forced discipline and rarely got a chance to eat outside of campus. Fast food meant freedom for a few precious moments of French Fries, soft drinks, and all the rest.
I had an insatiable appetite for those fast, impersonal hamburgers slopped with ketchup and mustard and sprinkled with diced onions. I loved the McDLT, I loved the Arch Deluxe, in Boston, I loved the McLobster Roll. When I lived in a McDonald’s test market in South Carolina, we had McPizza in the early 1990s. They installed special pizza ovens into my favorite location. Those bastardized pies were quite fantastic if you asked 14-year-old me. The crust was thin and crunchy, and the sauce was surprisingly peppery with a spicy kick.
I also hated the food at my institutions. If you fancy Little Debbie Star Crunch shaped pieces of what is ostensibly beef that has been chicken fried and served with honey mustard, fried okra, rice, and sweet tea. Well, then military school food might be for you. If you prefer a buffet of American, Italian, Salad, and sandwich stations that resembled a Shoney’s or Western Sizzlin, then my University’s food service would be for you.
That shit, on the other hand, was not for me.
McDonald’s, the Golden Arches, was my oasis in a desert of thoughtfully prepared entrees. And sometimes not so much thoughtfully prepared, as just gussied up leftovers. My college cafeteria was notorious for transplanting leftover meats from yesterday’s main course into the personal pan pizzas. A conclusion I came to after the infamous turkey pizza that popped up after the Thanksgiving-themed dinner nights before.
Ridiculous leftover topped pizza aside, the folks at my schools were trying to offer up food that was both good for our bodies and suitable for our palates. And there are still meals that I miss from my military school days. We had expertly made biscuits and sausage gravy. The spicy South Carolina Hash over rice was excellent. And rivers upon rivers of buttery grits, enough to sink Paula Dean.
Alas, I was young, an idiot, and all I wanted was to pay McDonald’s for a fast fried hamburger. For the love of God, I worked a few Summers on Martha’s Vineyard and would always stop at the Bourne McDonalds, order sacks of countless hamburgers, and freeze those bastards to eat on the island throughout the summer. Martha’s Vineyard, an island off the coast of Cape Cod, was and is still free of Ronald McDonald’s tyranny. So, to get my McDonalds fix throughout the summer, I needed to be strategic. Order a shit load of burgers and freeze them to rock hard hockey pucks to enjoy later. What the hell was I thinking? Here I was in the land of Clam Chowder and Lobster rolls microwaving ancient fast-food hamburgers.
I’m in my 40s now, so I’ve grown up a little. I rarely visit McDonald’s for anything, save coffee stops/ bathroom breaks on the highway. Today, I would much rather have the beans and rice that was the usual military school fare over Big Mac and fries. I do, however, have that one weakness, the McRib.
So welcome back McRib, may you stay available forever.