The absurdist text on the side of the box reads: “Your old friend is back … there’s no way of getting away with this love affair.”
Though the official New York area relaunch of the McRib is not until this coming Tuesday, a quick canvass of the area McD’s demonstrates that the sandwich was already being touted at most franchises. Accordingly, I grabbed one.
The chain is none too generous with the pickles and onions — maybe it’s because they actually trust the meat they’re feeding you.
Let’s first disentangle the nomenclature and mythology. According to Wikipedia, the product was invented by Derek Plowman and added to the regular menu of the chain in 1981. It was withdrawn in 1985, but has been periodically re-introduced as a specialty, in an attempt to cloak it in an artificially generated desirability. Nevertheless, the McRib unarguably has developed fervent fans — though not necessarily on the Lower East Side, where I was the only one of approximately 50 patrons eating it.
In irreducible terms, the thing is a pork hamburger, pure and simple, similar in composition to the pork burger offered in Italy and other parts of Europe. Perhaps McDonald’s feels that Americans don’t want any burger not made with beef.
The McRib is oblong in shape, and has been molded so that little protrusions on both sides resemble rib bones, intended to look like a short rack of pork ribs. Well, only in the most superficial way. The product has been reformulated frequently during its intermittent 30-year run.
Fee, fie, foe, fum, I count four ribs!
The sauce that smothers the patty tastes mildly of cumin. It contains something called “natural smoke flavor,” but this ingredient — also known as liquid smoke, and often repulsive — has been added with a light hand, so it doesn’t interfere with the flavor of the sauce, which is way too sweet. Pretend it’s your dessert.
Despite its fat content (40 percent), the McRib patty appears lean, and biting into it is pleasurable. If you’re not expecting the flavor of actual barbecued ribs, with their intensely smoky savor and stringy texture, the product tastes good, with none of the rancid-tallow flavor that McDonald’s burgers invariably have. Thankfully, the company hasn’t referred to the sandwich as barbecue this time around. I gobbled the thing down with relish, and I would eat it in preference to most other fast-food products. But clearly, the company doesn’t think the dining public is ready for an actual pork burger labeled as such — too bad!