Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

The Curious Case of The McRibble (And The McRib)

Look upon my works, ye mighty, and etc.Did eating the KFC Double Down merely compromise your kidneys? Now you can finally push your digestive system over the edge. Introducing: McRibbles.

Check your calendar. Is it April 1st? It is not. This recently-leaked ad might still be a hoax, but at least we know it's not a seasonal prank. And if it is indeed a joke, it is a rather cruel one to play on the nation's McRib aficionados, who are at this very moment lost in reverie over the idea that they will soon be able to enjoy their boneless, bastardized meat in a more elegant manner befitting the finest hors d'oeuvres.

Sophistication aside, purists will raise the obvious question: Why complicate a classic? Of course, the glossy Photoshop gleam lends these bite-size porkish products an edible aesthetic, but consider the logistics of actual consumption. How is the average gourmand to enjoy these slathery nuggets without sustaining intolerably glutinous fingers? Perhaps they are served with cutlery, or a wet-nap. (And, hopefully, an antacid.)

Despite the surfeit of feverish Internet speculation, based solely on this one picture floating around the web, McDonald's has released no information about the McRibbles-a stark contrast to media blitz that preceded the introduction of the Double Down. But then the McRib has always cut a shadowy figure-mysterious in both its composition and its availability.

Since it first released the McRib in 1981, McDonald's has constantly confused the consumers who grew devoted to the product. Pulled from the market after poor sales, the McRib reared its saucy, pork-flavored head once again in 1994 as a promotional tie-in to the Flintstones movie (presumably at the request of John Goodman).

The ultimate tease came in 2005, where McDonalds launched a two-pronged marketing campaign-simultaneously staging a "McRib farewell tour" while acting as the organizers of an online "Save the McRib" campaign. Three subsequent McRib tours have satisfied/taunted America.

At least Shamrock Shake followers-another sect of McDonald's deranged cultists-can be assured of a Saint Patrick's Day-centered release date. A quick chat with "AJ" on the McDonald's hotline yielded no such information about McRib or McRibbles. While the McRib tours happened last fall, the much-referenced McRib locator reports a McRib sighting in New York City as recently June 3rd-yes, this very day!

Homer ate many Krusty RibwichesIt is exactly this elusiveness that contributes to unparalleled McRib fanaticism. Does the readily-available Big Mac get this sort of devotion? (Well, maybe from this guy.) The McRib even achieved its apotheosis as an American cultural meme in 2003, when it was parodied on "The Simpsons."

It seems McDonald's has stumbled upon the greatest marketing tactic of all: turning its sandwich into an urban legend. Specialty items at other fast food chains-like the Chipotle Chicken/Asian Chicken at Wendy's or, arguably, Burger King's salads-are too easily accessible to generate mystique. Perhaps sensing the wisdom of McDonald's approach, Taco Bell only puts its Cheesy Gordita Crunch on the menu sporadically. (Spoiler alert: You can special order them!) Like Big Foot, McRib sightings are rare and its taste questionable.

Proponents of the McRib-and there are some-seem to enjoy the taste despite (because of?) its disturbing similarity to elementary school cafeteria fare. The hype machine behind the Double Down–KFC's specialty item-might have generated a thousand "taste-and-reaction" videos across the blogosphere, but did any of those brave tasters have much more of a reaction than "I need water immediately"?

McRibbers, on the other hand, seem to genuinely enjoy the spongy meat-like product and the cloyingly sweet barbecue sauce in which it is draped. If these pint-sized McRibs are real and not an elaborate extension of the McRib viral campaign, will devoted McRibbers be willing to make the conversion from hand-held to McRibble? Given current consumer preferences, where products continually grow smaller to indicate innovation and complexity, it is quite possible that they will. Do keep in mind that we are talking about fast food, though: People want to shovel as much of that crap into themselves as cheaply as possible. Perhaps a super-sized bucket of McRibbles will prove a happy solution.

UPDATE: There appears to be a somewhat tragic resolution to this story.

Mary Shyne is a recent NYU graduate, Bushwick-based writer, and fast food connoisseur. She blogs about fast food here.

43 Comments / Post A Comment

belltolls (#184)

I always get excited when McRibs are in season. Oh, and it's the pickles that make the McRib perfect.

McRib season should never be observed simultaneously with Negroni season.

Blackcapricorn (#4,791)

I'm, like, all UP in the McRibs.

belltolls (#184)

Can you think of anything better than a McRib with a Negroni chaser?

Sweet vermouth BBQ sauce?

theGoldenAss (#4,853)

Actually, a sweet vermouth BBQ sauce sounds like it might be work really well in a tomato-based sauce.

Mary Shyne (#5,289)

I beg to differ. What of the onions?

roboloki (#1,724)

being ass raped by a nine-dicked orangutan?

belltolls (#184)

I will bet those who just chip on McRibs don't even know that the pickles in there are not sweet pickles. No sir…they are dill with a little high note of tart. The sauce (which may have the same base as PVC piping) does not make the soft bun halves soggy. It is like they refuse to leave the McRib proper and yet they do seem to be a sauce. I want one. Right now. So much.

belltolls (#184)

YES! The onions always seem uncooked and like they may have been rinsed in water to get the more severe onion-y taste out of them.

Bell, YES the pickles are the best part.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Ms.Y. would cut a bitch if she had to suffer the Drive-Thru only to open the box and find a McRib, absent the pickles.

deepomega (#1,720)

The texture has almost nothing to do with actual meat, so I give them a hell no. Like eating barbecued marshmallows.

I was going with "foamed meat product," but I think yours is better.

pepper (#676)

McDonald's, of course, once served a foamed meat product: the late and unlamented McDLT, in which the meat was whipped into a mousse with a seaweed extract. Mmmm.

C_Webb (#855)

Wow. Before I was just disgusted. Now I'm appalled.

I'm not sure how else to convey the smell of BBQ combined with the mouthfeel of Tempur-Pedic.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

mmmmmmmmm, colloidal meats.

(I'm sure there's some sort of sublime Pork Foam sampler at El Bulli in outer-Barcelona (or wherever it is)… not that I'll ever be able to get on the waiting list!)

Art Yucko (#1,321)

@Gef: ah, if it's anything akin to the backfeel of a Tempurpedic? <3<3<3.

jacksonwest (#637)

I hear that rising beef prices are eating into burger dealer margins, so it would make some business sense to fork over pork.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Don't go dickin' with my chicken.

roboloki (#1,724)

art, don't allow your chicken in public dressed like a whore. she's just asking for it.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

She can't help it if she's finger-lickin'!

garge (#736)

I sigh over the Shamrock Shake from time to time. I am usually too distracted in March to remember to track down the geocitiesesque sites that list sightings geographically.

Mary Shyne (#5,289)

No joke: my friend & I drove all the way to Bayside Queens for a Shamrock Shake. My only regret? Only ordering a medium.

See also: Kelly & Jack Osbourne's elation with the return of the McRib sometime during their reality TV run. And their subsequent pronunciation of it as the "Mu-crib".

*single tear* for Kelly Osbourne's original body. Let's hope it comes home soon.

roboloki (#1,724)

i propose bros mcribbling bros. you present a serving of these to your brah and he must drop to his knees, place both hands behind his back and dive face first into this culinary abomination.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

…bobbing for scrapple?

As a rabid pork aficionado, I declare this all an abomination.

KenWheaton (#401)

How can you run this piece without mention of Burger King's new rib offerings … ribs with bones still in them?!?

Mary Shyne (#5,289)

!!! Be still, my cholesterol-laced heart!

zidaane (#373)

Coincidentally, most of my bones are formed by extruding meat packing by product into pressure molds.

BadUncle (#153)

It's tales of McHorror like these that make PETA sound less crazy.

hman (#53)

Let's not scare Balk and Choire away from continued access to their roast beef sandwiches and be happy for them. And I say this as a sometimes-fan of the Crunchwrap Supreme.

Greg Dewar (#5,128)

is this any worse than the actually on sale Burger King "ribs" with "bone" in them?

I mean, God knows what they're made of , but whatever animal they're made from….

gregorg (#30)

I was running out of patience there toward the end, waiting to hear where the damn sandwich could be found.

McRib season and chocolate pie season only overlap once every 19 years, you know.

Mary Shyne (#5,289)
belltolls (#184)

This is the greatest thing that could have happened. I was wondering how you were supposed to eat it. But have I told you how much I love the McRib?

Andrew Piccone (#7,185)


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