I had toyed with the idea of Slummin’ It with the McRib, but ultimately I try to keep things positive around here and I didn’t forsee good things. Then an associate made a special request, and at On Sandwiches we aim to oblige. (Whether you’re pleased with the result or not is up to you.) So I went, bought the sandwich, and took it home to eat and to consider. The issue that arose was exactly what angle from which to judge the McRib. It’s not really fair to compare it to the sandwich world at large, is it? It’s a processed pork patty only available when the scraps it is composed of drop below a certain price. No, I decided, to be fair I would have to judge the McRib on its own merits. And to a certain degree, on its own merits it is very much a success. The pork patty has the consistency that it always has, the sauce is almost sickeningly sweet, and the limited-time-only nature of it leaves it feeling like something special. My point here is this: the sandwich is exactly what it intends to be. I cry foul when I feel a sandwich is content to mire in the middle of things, but there’s an odd place in the world for aiming low.
But setting concept aside, how stands the execution? I have to say, friends, that I was disappointed. Not by taste or consistency, those were exactly what I expected them to be, but by effort. What you see above is exactly how the sandwich appeared to me, and that’s not a sight I find appealing, even if I go in with low expectations.
McDonald’s is in a bit of a unique position. Simply due to the scale of their operation, they can, within profitability, do whatever they want. The exact nature of every ingredient is exactly specified. Color, taste, size, quantity, it’s all carefully planned out. Workstations are designed around the food, nudging poorly motivated workers towards putting out food exactly as it is intended to be. Just stop for a second and think about the size of McDonald’s operation, every decision made between the origin of your meal and your consuming it, all of the people involved in those decisions. Think about that for a moment, and then stop and think about why all of those people, by their combined smarts and effort, couldn’t get more than 8 scraps of onion on my sandwich. I’ll forgive the scant pickles, the fast food industry has some fetish about two pickles being appropriate for an entire sandwich. That’s a story for another day. But there couldn’t be more than a tablespoon of onion there! That pitiful onion is something I simply can’t abide. McDonald’s has an army at their disposal, an industry, a kingdom. When I looked at my McRib all I could think about was the scale of the operation and how something so comprehensive, so obscenely large, had managed to produce something so haphazard and unimpressive. In effect, the sandwich had passed through a thousand hands before it ended up in mine, and I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that I might be the only one involved who gave a damn.
Unfortunately the people who care least about your meal are often the ones who have the most direct influence over it. Which is not to say anyone else in the company is really thinking consumer-first (outside of the marketing dept), but it’s the fry and line cooks who can take a passable-for-McDonald’s sandwich and ruin it either by over-salting, over/under-saucing, and skimping (or, rarely, going too heavy) on toppings. I’ve skipped the last couple years of McRibs, but I remember the onion- and pickling being far more adequate.
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