The McRib is finally back at McDonald’s, making yet another return to the menu from which it has been banished, reinstated and then banished again. Its return, however, is a temporary one, because the same ads that herald its return also state that it’ll soon be gone once again.
Americans have had a love-hate relationship with the sandwich since its debut in 1981 and it’s not too difficult to understand why we’re so conflicted about the McRib. On one hand, it’s a tasty, barbecue sauce-doused pork sandwich topped with pickles and onions.
On the other hand, it’s possibly the strangest and most disgusting fast-food concoction ever created. Even the people who, like me, love the McRib are of two minds about it. It tastes good going down but gives you a queasy feeling for hours, possibly days afterward.
Only in Germany, where blood-soaked bread and sausage made from eels is considered normal, has the McRib managed to keep a permanent spot on the McDonald’s menu.
I’ve eaten chocolate-coated White Castles and I’ve drank Crystal Pepsi but I’ve never encountered anything that’s simultaneously alluring and as bizarre as the McRib.
Like McNuggets and Spam, the two foods genetically closest to the McRib, the sandwich is made up of chopped, pressed, processed and shaped meat. Unlike the McNugget, which is, well, nugget-shaped, and Spam, which is shaped like a metal can, the McRib is molded into a shape somewhat resembling a small slab of barbecued pork ribs. Adding to the realism are several bone-shaped pieces of meat pressed onto the top of the patty to simulate the rib bones.
It has a chewy texture halfway through that’s reminiscent of a greasy pencil eraser coated in sauce. Despite that, it’s actually pretty tasty. And I do my part to ensure the survival of the sandwich by buying several of them whenever they make their infrequent appearances on the McDonald’s menu.
After seeing a McRib commercial during Saturday Night Live and observing the look of horror on the faces of my wife and sister-in-law as I described the sandwich to them, I decided to do a little research on the Web.
The first few sites I visited didn’t really tell me much that I didn’t know. Some people love the thing, while others do not. McDonald’s carefully manipulates market demand for the McRib by regularly announcing its departure and then orchestrating its return a few months later.
It has 490 calories, less than a Big Mac but roughly the same amount as two Snickers bars washed down by a can of Coke. Again, it’s nothing I didn’t know already.
And then I stumbled onto a site that changed my life. The page on the Fast Food Facts blog devoted to the McRib shocked me in a way I didn’t know I could be shocked. In a piece called “Deconstructing McRib,” the writer, Ken Kuhl, took the sandwich, separated it into its constituent parts and, finally, bisected the patty itself.
Now, I’m no namby-pamby when it comes to gruesome images. I’ve seen the JFK autopsy pictures. I’ve looked at many a picture of bizarre medical deformities. I’ve watched videos of exploding skulls. But nothing I’ve ever seen prepared me for the sight of a naked McRib.
As delicious as it tastes, when the sauce is washed off and the patty is peeled of its brown outer skin, the McRib looks like a poached cow’s brain dyed white, or a human skeleton soaked in vinegar. There really are no adequate words to describe the horror.
It glistens in the light in a way I’ve never seen before, defying any previously held notions of what is considered edible or even possibly edible. I defy anyone to gaze at the images for more than a few seconds without being forced to look away.
“May God help us all,” I muttered to myself after seeing the pictures.
I don’t know what I expected a dissected McRib to look like, but it certainly wasn’t this. After looking at the photos, I felt something I didn’t know I possessed had been taken away from me permanently. I will never be the same again. A better advertisement for vegetarianism has never existed, nor will there be one in the future.
There are certain things that should never be seen. The naked McRib is one of them. I beseech you, my fellow citizens, to inform yourselves. Enjoy your McRibs if you must, but be fully aware of what it is you’re consuming.
And may a merciful God bestow forgiveness on whoever came up with this unholy, frightening, delicious sandwich.