I vividly remember the first time I had a McDonald’s McRib. It was 1989, and I was on a field trip with my friend’s church group. All the other kids bought Happy Meals, but I was in fourth grade and wanted everyone to know that I was a budding sophisticate. Unlike burgers’ circular discs, the McRib formed an elegant oval. There was no junior version meant for children; it was meant for adult appetites only.
The McRib was a rite of passage, which I devoured in front of a table full of cute boys who weren’t at all impressed, or by the barbecue sauce smeared all over my hands and face. I knew in that moment that for a man to ever love me, he must also love the McRib.
The last time I had a McRib was in 2013. I was out running errands when I received a frantic text from my husband that said “MCRIB IS BACK GOING NOW.” I quickly abandoned my errands and ran to meet him, where he was waiting for me with a large Diet Coke, a hot apple pie, and two magnificent McRibs. The vow I made to myself 24 years earlier had been a wise one.
When McRib returned to Baltimore McDonald’s last Wednesday, I was at McDonald’s with my husband and our 12-year-old son at noon. It was his moment to join the mighty McRib Nation. It was the day when my oldest boy would become a man.
I realized after my first bite that despite my lifelong obsession, I never really registered what the McRib tasted like. It’s a fine sandwich—particularly when you order it light on the sauce, with double onions—but in our golden age of ridiculous limited-time-only fast food offerings, it just felt like an ordinary sandwich.
I wondered if my memories had been failing me all these yearrs, or if perhaps my taste buds had just matured. I turned to my son to ask for his thoughts, which were immediately obvious as I watched him licking the sauce off his fingers, his McRib devoured before I’d even taken my second bite.
“Mom, that was the most delicious freaking sandwich I have ever had in my life.”
The McRib still has plenty of magic—just don’t overthink it. This isn’t something you eat with a persnickety palate or high—or even moderate—standards. If you truly understand the McRib, you understand that it’s always been far more than just an ordinary sandwich. Just like love, it’s hard to explain.