It’s that time of year again. Yes it is autumn, yes it is nearly Halloween, and yes the threats of snow have already been heard. All three of those are true, but do you know what time it really is?
It’s McRib time. According to McDonalds, where the sandwich is sold, the cult favorite will be available nationwide until Nov. 14. It consists of a pork “rib” patty, drenched with barbecue sauce, served with pickle slices and sliced onion, all on an oblong roll. For some reason, it has garnered a following worldwide that eagerly awaits its brief re-introduction to the typically stagnant McDonalds menu.
When I was in elementary school, my school would serve the boneless patties for lunch every so often. Next to the “rib” on my light blue tray would be some yellow corn straight from the can and mashed potatoes that somehow went from whole potatoes, to dandruff-esque white flakes, to a gummy mass on my tray. I was six or seven, so I really didn’t notice.
Fast forward four years or so and I indulged in a weird fanaticism with Banquet frozen dinners. You know Banquet, the red, one dollar box of plastic and processed food. I went through similar phases with cheese dogs and hot chili flavored Ramen noodles (which is apparently not available at any supermarket, much to my chagrin). Being the experimental eater that I am, I tried to sample as many of the meals as I could, expect for the Swedish meatballs. I love them homemade, but something about a large brown mass on the front of the box was off-putting.
So of course, one of their meals is a “rib” patty meal, or as Banquet refers it to, “Boneless Pork Rib Shaped Patty Meal.” Thank God the second part of the title is in small print, or I don’t think I would have ever considered trying it. But as the brand new middle-schooler that I was, I was determined to feast.
It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t that good either. Like in elementary school, the meat was flanked by corn and mashed potatoes. Swimming in a pool of brown barbecue sauce, the meat served its purpose. The “shaped-patty” texture was clearly noticeable, as some parts were quite tender, while others were either over-microwaved, or had parts of the pig I’d rather not mention. I remember there being little meat flavor; it was more of a vehicle for the flood of sweet barbecue sauce. I’m not quite sure what “tangy” or “zesty” really mean, but I would say it was both of these things.
Ten years later, I see the local McDonalds advertising the McRib. All it says is “McRib is back.” They don’t need to promote how great it tastes, what kind of meat they use (which is probably a good idea), what the price is, nothing. No expensive advertising campaigns needed. It’s back; that’s all people need to know.
Soon, in my travels, I will stop at the McDonalds and pick up one of these “ribs.” I expect it to be sort of spongy, sort of chewy, weirdly sweet and messy with cheap barbecue sauce. I expect it to be nothing like the bone-in ribs I am familiar with, I expect myself to be uncomfortable calling it a rib in the first place. Though somehow, I still expect it to be delicious.