Living in different parts of this great country, it was amazing how one food product could bring so much joy to people once a year.
The McRib sandwich. Throw in the Shamrock Shake, and McDonald’s corners the market in “gotta have it once a season” products.
Many places I lived had a McDonald’s, far too many Chinese restaurants, diners and dives. But not a real barbecue spot. Sure, restaurants try to take pulled pork and call it barbecue, but we know the difference.
Even well-intentioned chefs armed with a smoker make an attempt at brisket, and like pizza, it’s usually good even when it’s bad.
However, it’s like football. Just because I can throw a football doesn’t mean I’m a quarterback. The same with cooking good barbecue.
I have seen posts on Facebook that say “gas station pizza in New York state is better than pizza anywhere in the land.”
Well, gas station barbecue in Texas is better than anyplace in the land. I remember years ago my first drive into Texas. The first place I stopped was a gas station with a small barbecue restaurant attached. The barbecue melted in my mouth and the five or six flavors of sauces were unique, perfect and free-flowing for the taking. No one north of Virginia would put out an onion and pickle bar, either.
Which is why, I thought for sure, there is no way McDonald’s sells the McRib in Texas.
Oh, was I wrong.
How could this be? I mean we have Bodacious, and of course we have THE Bodacious, too. And Stanley’s, and every single place I can think of and you can name.
Earl Campbell has a sauce, Charlie Daniels has steaks. In Longview, on $3 worth of gas you can hit 19 restaurants with barbecue. In Tyler, if you want to make it yourself, get in line at the Country Meat Market.
So I got in line at McDonald’s and ordered. The sandwich was nearly $5. McDonald’s corporate was nice enough to share some information with me.
According to their research, the McRib is, “Saucy, tangy, tender and shamelessly delicious.”
When the McRib came out, I remember the sauce dripping on Michael Jackson’s white suit on his “Thriller” album cover and also dripping on this new newspaper that was delivered free as a trial, USA Today. That was 1982.
“The McRib has been a beloved menu item at McDonald’s since its inception nearly 40 years ago,” said Linda VanGosen, vice president of menu innovation for McDonald’s. “There’s nothing quite like the taste of the McRib. To our customers, it’s become more than a delicious, saucy moment … it’s a season, and it’s taking the internet by storm. That’s why this year, we’re proud to serve the McRib nationwide for everyone to enjoy.”
McDonald’s doesn’t stop there as they tell us to, “Get in on the McRib magic with seasoned boneless pork slathered in smoky, tangy barbecue sauce, topped with slivered onions and tart pickles. It’s a combination so tantalizing it has longtime enthusiasts declaring, ‘I need it,’ and the McRib-curious saying, ‘Why the heck not?’ “
I took my first bite. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but it was not Texas barbecue.
McDonald’s did confirm the sandwich is like the music of David Hasselhoff — they enjoy it year-round in Germany.
One thing struck me as odd. The person taking my order questioned my order. She could not believe I was only ordering one.
It’s in that high of demand? So I made a call to the man who knows all I need to know about Texas, Longview News-Journal Sports Editor Jack Stallard. He’s like the one-degree separation of everything. Not only does he know about the McRib, it turns out he worked at McDonald’s in high school, and by the end of the night, they would only have one or two left until the next frozen box came in.
As I kept stammering and stuttering to Jack, questioning the validity of the McRib in Texas, Jack put it all in perspective.
“The McRib is like the Dallas Cowboys. You either love them or you hate them,” he said.
So McRib, with that being said, I came, I saw, I ate. And I will see you again next year.
Because I need gas in my car. And some darn good barbecue.
John Anderson is the regional editor of the Longview News-Journal and the Tyler Morning Telegraph. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org