Tuesday, September 22, 2015

McRib Is Back! (Or Should I Say "McShoulder?")

You never know when horror will strike.

It was a pleasant day, blue skies and sunshine. The kids were especially happy, because we had just left the dentist's office. The kids looooove the dentist! (They get to watch Frozen there.) They were in the back seat of the car, going through their dentist swag bag. Besides the usual toothbrush and floss, they each got a toy, too. The Girl got a toy mustache she could stick to her face and pretend to be a desperado. The Boy got a not-quite-as-good-as-Hot-Wheels brand toy car. They were both delighted.

So, I was feeling pretty good about life as I drove through the city on the way back home. And that's when I saw it. My mood immediately changed. A sick feeling hit me in the pit of my stomach. I started to sweat, and my skin went clammy. I thought about stopping to catch my breath, but decided it would be better to just press forward and get as far away from it as I could.

I looked again to make sure I had seen what I thought I had. It was true. The sign had nothing on it but the three words sure to strike terror in the hearts of all people with good taste:

"McRib Is Back."

Thanks for the warning!

There are a lot of things I don't understand, and the McRib is one of them. What exactly is a McRib? I turned to the McDonald's website on the interwebs to find out. At the top of the McRib page it says:

What's in your McRib patty?

Then, it answers it's own question with the answer:

Pork! Our McRib patty starts with ground pork from the pork shoulder.

The first thing that stands out to me here is that they say "Pork!" like we'll actually be surprised that it contains meat. It's as if they're saying, "Ha! You probably didn't think there was real meat in this thing, did you? Well, there is! It's pork!!!"

Then there's the second, and probably more important thing that stands out about their statement: "ground pork from the pork shoulder." Now, I'll admit that I may not be as familiar with pig anatomy as maybe I could be, but I'm thinking that the pork shoulder is not actually located in the rib.

I know enough about human anatomy to know that my rib and my shoulder are not exactly the same thing. They're not even particularly close. So, I suspect that the same is true for the pig.

The next, obvious, point is: If it's made from the shoulder, not the rib, shouldn't it be called the "McShoulder?" I think "McRib" seems a bit deceptive, doesn't it? It's not made from the rib! (I guess "McPork" might be an acceptable name, but "McRib" is not.)

It's like how they can call their chicken sandwich a "McChicken," but they can't call it a "McBreast" if it's not made out of chicken breast. (Of course, there are probably other reasons why they shouldn't use the name "McBreast," but I won't go into that here.)

Unfortunately, there's still one more thing that stands out from the McDonald's statement. They say, "Our McRib starts with ground pork…." Starts? So, apparently there is more to the McRib than just ground pork from the pork shoulder. Yes, there is. McDonald's continues:

A little salt, water and dextrose (a type of sugar made from corn), are added to help the patty maintain its McRib shape and preserve its flavor. Finally, we add a small amount of preservatives — BHA, Propyl Gallate and Citric Acid, which help maintain taste.

The scary things about this statement are how it throws around words like "flavor" and "taste" as if they apply to the McRib. Having personally "tasted" the "flavor" of the McRib, I'm not sure that these concepts actually exist. 

The important thing that these added ingredients really do is "help the patty maintain its McRib shape." Because isn't the fact that it's shaped like a rib the most important thing about a McRib? Without its "McRib shape" it's just another slab of pork shoulder and preservatives warmed up and slapped on a bun.

Personally, I find it difficult to classify the McRib as food. To me it is disgusting and unappetizing. It's been years since I've eaten one, and at this point I wouldn't even consider putting one in my mouth. And this got me thinking.

I have a friend, Emily, who runs a website/blog where she advocates avoiding processed foods. (Check it out here: thatswhatieat.com.) She does great work and gets excellent results, but while I respect her a lot, I'm personally not quite ready to give up Krispy Kreme, A&W, and the occasional Filet O' Fish.

Still, as I thought about how I don't consider the McRib as actual food and am disgusted by even the thought of eating one, I wondered if this is how Emily feels about all McDonald's food. Is that the key to avoiding all of the processed junk food that gets thrown at us? Just think of it as horrible non-foodish substance like the McRib? Is this how all healthy-eating people actually manage to eat healthily in our pre-processed world?

Because the McRib sounds like it should be good. Ribs, slathered in tasty barbecue sauce and made into a sandwich? It sounds great! Unfortunately, they are not ribs, and the barbecue sauce is not tasty. I just don't understand why, after trying it once, anyone would ever attempt to eat another McRib.

Maybe we just need to get the word out: It's not really a McRib, it is a McShoulder. Because I don't think we'd ever see a McDonald's sign loudly proclaiming: "McShoulder Is Back!"

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