McRibbed for your pleasure

*Insert theme from 2001:A Space Odyssey*

That once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has come around yet again. The McRib from McDonalds, that lovely ‘pork meat product’ pressed into the shape of rib meat and slathered in barbecue sauce, is back. And I, being of sound mind and body, had to partake.

Far be it from me to deliberate on the intricacies of the McRib phenomenon. I cannot say why it inspires such a fervent following, but I will say that, when the McRib is back in town, I answer the call.

And to those naysayers who would say, “Nay! How dare you put that kind of food from that kind of place into your own body?!?! Don’t you know that it is made from the elbow skin of kitten-killers, that it takes 7 years to pass through your digestive tract, and that there was this guy once who ate food from there for 1 month straight and gained 100 lbs and almost died?” I say to you, “Its more complicated than that.” You see, McDonalds and I have a bit of a history.

Of course as a kid I loved McDonalds; we all did. Not just for the Happy Meals and collecting all the Hot Wheels in the series but for their awesome playsets. They still had wood chips underneath them when I was a kid. Real wood! From an actual tree!!! Mayor McCheese and Grimace statues, ride-on, spring-loaded Fry Guys; that place had it all. What a treat. Oh, and they had food, too.

I got into middle school and suddenly McDonalds was no longer cool. It was way to mainstream for my rapidly sophisticating tastes. Why eat as such a pedestrian place when there were so many finer things to be had at the likes of a Taco Bell or at the upper crust of Wendy’s. So I enjoyed Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers all through my high school and college years as my hatred of McDonalds deepend while they conquered the worldwide fast food market. How mainstream. Such a little hipster I was.

Then graduate school hit me. I lived off campus. I spent entire days and partial nights deep underground in my lab in the sub basement of the engineering building. I could no longer just hop back to my dorm and get ‘All-You-Care-To-Eat’ at the dining hall. I had to feed myself. Guess what was right across the street from my building…

It happened reluctantly at first. I forgot to pack a lunch, had a few minutes before my class, stayed way to late, etc., and I just needed something to eat. I can stop at the McD’s just this once, it’s not so bad. After a little while, I discovered this underground tunnel that went from my building across the street to the parking garage next to the place, how convenient. After a while longer, I realized that this was the best-run McDonalds in the universe! It is no exaggeration to say that they had 8 lines 5 people deep at lunchtime, and you were in and out with your hottasty fries in about 10 minutes. It didn’t take long before I was eating there 3-5 times per week. Awesome!

After I left school and moved to Denver, I thought McDonalds would just be relegated to a special place in my history. Something that I loved at one time, but didn’t come up so much anymore. And then I started traveling for my job. A lot.

McDonalds became my anchor when I left home. I always grabbed some before I hopped on a plane and maybe even again when I landed. They are everywhere and it was easy to weave it into my travel routine.

I was a regular at the one in Concourse B in Denver before I hopped on my United flights. If I’m departing late after it has closed, I cut through Concourse A; theirs is open 24-hours. I get angry when my flight leaves too early and they are only serving breakfast (no fries and I have to drink orange juice? blech!).I always hit up the one in O’Hare’s Concourse B before I grabbed my regular flight from Chicago to Heathrow, but the servers there are usually angry (or maybe that’s just everyone in Chicago). I had to get myself a Royale with Cheese in France. I got a Shrek Burger at a McDonalds in Brazil just after the movie came out. It had pepperonis on it for some reason. My first stop in Japan was a McDonalds after about 18 hours on planes and 2 hours on a train and I had a fillet o’fish there. It was the best thing I had ever tasted. Their free internet saved me when I was stuck at a hotel with none in Abingdon, UK. And every time I left Barcelona’s gorgeous new international terminal, I grabbed my quarter-pounder or big mac and headed to their outdoor courtyard to enjoy it.

It was great to see how much they could keep the same and what subtle differences came up in them around the world. It became a habit and a hobby of mine. Don’t worry, I sampled plenty of the local flavor when I was out, as well. Hard to say why I was so drawn to it but I can take a stab. At the risk of overly sappy, sometimes when you’re all alone and really far from home, it really helps to have something familiar to fall back on.

I just picked up my life and moved again to California and, guess what, there are some golden arches in the shopping complex across the street from my new job. Home sweet home.

Footnote: No, I did not gain 25 lbs. and a skyrocketing cholesterol. Enjoy in moderation!

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