I Ate My First McRib, and I Regret It

Categories: Fast Times

McRib 004.jpg
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt
Tempting? Not terribly.
I made it through 32 years without tasting a McRib. Over three decades spent tasting and eating all other manner of offensive foods -- yet a McRib had never passed my lips, until last Thursday. I can't say I regret my meal. It goes deeper than that: a sense that I gave in, sheeplike, to a national phenomenon whose promises -- no matter how meager -- were always going to fall short of my expectations.

I knew I wouldn't like or even understand the McRib, and was content to go the rest of my life without tasting one. Fast food and I have a strained relationship as it is except for a few soft spots: McDonald's coffee, Whataburger taquitos, Jack in the Box tacos at 1 a.m.

I respect -- perhaps even admire -- the technology and ingenuity involved in creating an identical meal across thousands of different chain restaurants 365 days a year, 24 hours a day in many cases...but the product is rarely something I'm interested in consuming. And those same massive food systems are, in part, responsible for creating clone versions of Big Macs or Whoppers every single day are also responsible for the woeful industrialization of our agricultural systems and farms. Those fast food chains are, in part, responsible for our nation's deepening battle against obesity, hypertension, diabetes and a whole host of other health issues.

And, quite frankly, the McRib always looked simply disgusting, like a flattened condom stuffed with Ol' Roy-brand cat food and slathered with untrustworthy sauce between two buns that looked like the plastic set that came with my children's grocery store set when I was six years old.

mcrib.JPG
McDonald's would have you believe the McRib is Jesus Christ's trans-substantiated flesh.
To a Texan, the concept of barbecued pork is reserved for a handful of items: pork butts and ribs, both left on the smoker for hours and neither coated in sticky-sweet sauce. We don't do pulled pork sandwiches here, either, so the idea of a pork sandwich -- pulled or not -- doesn't appeal to me either...especially one from McDonald's.

But I let curiosity get the better of me last week when I logged onto Facebook one morning.

"I would like to see you write a complete review on the McRib," read a request on my wall from frequent commenter Fatty FatBastard. "And it should be the cover story."

"I would like Tard the Grumpy Cat to come and live with me," was my hasty reply. (Luckily Fatty is battle-hardened by all the years spend in the EOW comments section.) "You can't always get what you want." Besides, I argued, I'd never had one before.

Fatty persisted. "See? Then it would be a completely unbiased review."

McRib 008.jpg
We are not friends, you and I.
Less than 24 hours later, I was hitting my third McDonald's of the afternoon and cursing Fatty's real name as I searched desperately for one that still had the damn sandwich in stock. Each one I approached beckoned with a sign heralding the glories of the limited-time McRib, yet a closer look at the signs revealed tiny stickers saying simply: "Sold out."

Along with a keen sense of irritation, my curiosity was growing still stronger. If the stupid sandwiches are sold out everywhere, they must be at least decent -- right? People couldn't be buying out the sandwiches if they tasted like Ol' Roy.

Finally, I found myself in the drive-thru lane of the McDonald's on North Main, where a cheerful-sounding Hispanic woman was imploring me through the speaker to add another McRib to my order for only $1.

You have enough McRibs here to tack them on like apple pies? I wanted to yell back at her. Send them to the other McDonald's so people don't have to waste $20 worth of gas driving around town like pork-crazed assholes trying to find them!

Instead, I pathetically contemplated actually adding the extra McRib to my order. It's only one dollar, I reasoned. I deserve it.

I shook my head and snapped out of the disgusting food-as-reward mindset I fall into far too often -- a mindset, I might add, that's once again encouraged by deals such as these at fast food chains such as this one. (Besides, the brownie bites I'd added onto my 1 a.m. Jack in the Box order the night before had been woeful. And those were only $1 too.)

Back at the office after nearly an hour on the road, I actually tore into my McRib with a voracity that both appalled and astonished me. A growling stomach was making all of my decisions suddenly, but even after the first few hunger-blinded bites I could tell it had been a mistake.

McRib 010.jpg
I am aware of the ironic sign in the background, thank you.
Here's the thing: The McRib does not taste terrible, except for the fiddly, fleshy little nubbins extruding from the sides that are meant to represent "ribs." In fact -- full disclosure -- I ate the entire thing.

I felt so hollow afterwards that it was as if my stomach had shifted entirely outside my body, as though my abdominal cavity was rejecting it in shame. This was a terrible thing to have eaten and I had no real excuse to do so. It contained no nutritional value whatsoever and unlike the questionable tacos and other junk food fare I occasionally consume, it didn't even have the benefit of being so delicious as to excuse its negligible health benefits.

The "pork" inside the McRib tastes quite obviously fake. It has a curious spongy texture that allows your teeth to slide into the meat with almost no give whatsoever. It's not like you're eating real meat at all, but something materialized on the Holodeck of the Starship Enterprise or a piece of food that's fast-fading in some airport during the course of the Langoliers. It's just...weird.

The pickles and onions, with their very real and very appropriate crunch, absolved the meat somewhat of its off-putting texture. But the bread suffered the same fate as the meat, falling apart in my mouth like dust, as if it had never been real in the first place. I spent the next hour trying and failing to understand how there can be any passion around such a dull, lifeless thing. How is there a clamor for the McRib? In what way is it "epic" or "legendary"?

I am left today with the disappointing knowledge that there is a huge segment of my fellow Americans who look forward to this creepy fake meat every year with a hunger that borders on the pathological. I am not judging their taste -- taste, after all, is subjective -- but rather judging the quality of the food that people have come to revere. This silly, false thing. This vague improvement over potted meat.

I cringe as much as the next person when I hear words like "organic," "artisan" or "craft" over-used or, worse, misapplied. But I'd far rather suffer a surfeit of foods in our nation that are leaning towards the real end of the spectrum than the fake. Because there is really no excuse for the McRib, and my life is poorer for having tasted it.



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18 comments
hugh.ramsey
hugh.ramsey

I read the other day that there are 32 ingredients in the "meat" that makes the McRib.  Is that even possible?

I have enjoyed them in the past but I think that ship has sailed.

fiorello
fiorello

it tastes like sweet, tangy bbq sauce, a little raw onion and pickle....about the same as many inferior bbq sandwiches; there is no texture, granted. wonder if it's made from a pink paste like chicken fingers?

texmex01
texmex01 topcommenter

Jack in the Box tacos are a guilty pleasure, but I have just never been able to force myself to try a McRib....

Sharon333
Sharon333

Creepy Fake Meat. You said it.

Schitt.Rumpney
Schitt.Rumpney

You ate *W H A T?!* I agree, they make sound like the McRibb is "the food of the gods". My fis

Mai Pham
Mai Pham

Had one today after work. Tore into it before I even drove out of the parking lot. That's the key -- you gotta eat it right away, while its so hot you can barely hold it with your hands. Mine was so hot, I had to hang it over the side of the box to take a bite-- and it was truly fabulous as always, questionable meat and all. :) do I feel great after? I'm actually pretty disgusted with myself, but those few minutes of McRib-joy meant were worth it. Don't judge. #ChristmasEvePleasures

etee56
etee56

I will admit: I like the McRib. A lot. But, only for a brief period of time each year.


~EdT.

tiltingwindmills
tiltingwindmills

Aw . . . that is wrong. I suppose I'll go to my grave having never had so much as a bite of a McRib.

I think I got over my once/twice a year drunken Jack in the Box taco binge last summer. Hit the drive-through, got six orders (yep: 12 tacos), headed home and commenced to scarf. I was on the 12th and last taco. I got a good gobble. When I pulled my hand away with the last half-taco, I felt myself tugging something from my mouth (like when you remove a fork and there's a long strand of unbitten spaghetti that you're slowing pulling away). On closer examination, it was a 12"-long hair. Further scrutiny revealed that (whew!) it was blond and straight.

fear2stop
fear2stop

I never thought the McRib was that good to begin with. When I found out they were made of tripe, heart, and 'scalded stomach', well, that about sealed the deal for me. Never again.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

Full disclosure:  I like potted meat, as well.  


The thing about why folks like it is similar to why you (and I) will grab a couple of JITB tacos once or twice a year:  It recalls our younger days and our simpler palates.  Chicken McNuggets were developed by the same guy who made the McRib, and I bet you still enjoy eating those every now and again.

Either way, glad you gave it the ol' college try.  And you're certainly not the first person who's cursed my name.  it's kind of my thing.  ;-)


Merry Christmas!

nguyenhm17
nguyenhm17

Like many other vices, the shame is half the fun.

Schitt.Rumpney
Schitt.Rumpney

@hugh.ramsey 

Good LAWD NAW! say it aint so!  32 INGREDIENTS! And it  suppose to be plain ole "beef" (or are they trying to imitate pork?)? I cant visualize a pig or a cow moo-oinking as a merged beest on the farm with 32 legs or utters much less to think they've "pressed" 32 species of 'throw-away scrap'ins into a mold to factory-press a McRib!.... ewe!  Sure glad I don't like those thayngs

Schitt.Rumpney
Schitt.Rumpney

@tiltingwindmills blond and "straight".....(so the guy contributing the hair tells you, heh-heh)

Schitt.Rumpney
Schitt.Rumpney

@fear2stop : no wonder it feels like biting into a slab of liver and rubber. Sure glad I am not the only one describing the texture and consistency like organs and veins and "throw-away-scraps" pressed into a "rib" mold down at A.C.M.E. Rubber Factory.

fear2stop
fear2stop

@FattyFatBastard @fear2stop

Good point but it depends on what kind of animal. Im not convinced the mcrib came from a pig, but rather an animal with whiskers and a fuzzy tail...

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