On the Evolution of Serving Hot Coffee

More than 20 years ago, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck ordered coffee at a McDonald’s drive-through in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She spilled the coffee, was badly burned, and one year later, sued McDonald’s. The jury awarded her $2.9 million but she eventually settled for about $500,000. Her story became a media sensation and fodder for talk-show hosts, late-night comedians, sitcom writers, and political pundits. The New York Times has a short piece and a video on how serving hot coffee has changed since then:

The point is, the world now caters to the coffee drinker. The idea of getting into a car without cup holders and lifting the lid off the cup in order to add milk and sugar and drink the coffee, as the facts of the case show Ms. Liebeck did that morning, seems strangely anachronistic.

Within the ensuing years, some genius invented a sculptured lid with a little sipping hole in the top, eliminating the need to open the cup and reducing the potential for spills. Sloshing grew less likely once the lip was raised above the cup rim.

Let’s not forget the evolution of the cup holder. Teams of car engineers continuously work to perfect their design for drivers in the front and those passengers two rows back.

In which you also learn about the zarf, that cupboard thingie that goes around the cup of coffee.

MacDo: On The McDonald’s Franchise in France

Very interesting post at Roads & Kingdoms how the McDonald’s in France caters to local taste:

It’s not quite a bistro, but it’s close. This is McDonald’s as a decidedly more grown-up experience, where hard plastic is traded for leather banquettes, pull-out chairs for angular cushioned stools, and golden arches for burnt sienna and low-lit nooks where couples can steal a quiet moment. You can still find a Big Mac and a box of nuggets here, but they are overshadowed on the menu boards by the bigger stars of the French universe: the McDoo, a warm ham and cheese take on the croque-monsieur, leafy salads that bounce like a Kardashian’s backside, and a line of burgers featuring artisanal French cheeses like Comté and Camembert that McDonald’s rolled out earlier this year.

I had no idea about this trivia:

It may surprise some, but McDonald’s France—called MacDo by the locals—is the highest-grossing McDonald’s market outside of the United States (despite the fact that worker pay, a recent source of controversy in the US, starts around $12—France’s minimum wage). It’s a fun story to tell: the lowbrow American chain that won over the fastidious French. Something about it makes Americans feel like a warm apple pie inside. That’ll show those French snobs! But this didn’t happen by accident. If McDonald’s has found success in France, it’s because in many ways it has become the anti-McDonald’s: The service is warm, the interiors thoughtfully designed, and, above all, the food—from the baguette vessels to the pain au chocolat to the camembert-swaddled patties—is made for French palates.

Next time you find yourself in a McDonald’s in France, make sure to order something else besides the Royale with Cheese.

The People You Meet at McDonald’s

Vance Evans, a 66-year-old retiree from Bakersfield, California, “has been eating double cheeseburgers at McDonald’s since he flipped them himself as a teenager.” In a photo essay titled “The People You Meet at McDonald’s,” photographer Nolan Conway presents a menagerie of the people that visits the Golden Arches:

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Mr. Conway has visited almost 150 McDonald’s restaurants in 22 states. See the entire gallery here.

I’m looking forward to seeing more of this series. Would be interesting to see project extend beyond the U.S. borders as well.

 

Why is the McRib So Popular?

The McRib sandwich is back at McDonalds:

Most of the time, it’s up to local franchises to determine when and if they want to sell the McRib — except in Germany, the only place where it’s available perennially. But McDonald’s said the response was so great last November when it made the McRib available nationally for about three weeks that it decided to bring it back this year. The company, which previously hadn’t sold the McRib nationally since 1994, declined to give specific sales numbers.

The sandwich, which is dressed with onions, pickle slices and barbecue sauce, was introduced nationally in 1982. With 500 calories and 26 grams of fat, it’s slightly trimmer than the Big Mac, which has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat. And just like the Big Mac, the McRib has become a popular McDonald’s offering.

That’s fine and dandy until you find out what actually makes up the McRib. Following a link via Chicago Magazine, we learn about restructured meat products:

Restructured meat products are commonly manufactured by using lower-valued meat trimmings reduced in size by comminution (flaking, chunking, grinding, chopping or slicing). The comminuted meat mixture is mixed with salt and water to extract salt-soluble proteins. These extracted proteins are critical to produce a “glue” which binds muscle pieces together. These muscle pieces may then be reformed to produce a “meat log” of specific form or shape. The log is then cut into steaks or chops which, when cooked, are similar in appearance and texture to their intact muscle counterparts.

This bit about the origins of the McRib are very interesting:

The McRib itself was the brainchild of Rene Arend, a native of Luxembourg who first appeared in the Chicago area not as McDonald’s first executive chef, but as a 31-year-old night head second cook at the Drake and a protege of “great chefs in Strasbourg, France.” Arend won a 1959 gourmet contest at the Drake with his supreme de poularde Amphitryon—chicken in sweet butter with cognac Martell, Madere sauce, cream, and goose liver, accompanied by veal dumplings and hearts of palm covered in orange hollandaise sauce—”fixed up for tastes of American people,” Arend told the Tribune. Arend moved to the Whitehall Club before being lured away by the hours, benefits, and challenge of McDonald’s in the late 1970s by Ray Kroc, a Whitehall regular:

Given that Chef Rene is a native of Luxembourg, a graduate (first in his class) of the College Technique Hotelier de Strasbourg, and a man who has prepared dinners for such luminaries as Queen Elizabeth II of England, the king of Belgium, and Sophia Loren and Cary Grant, we asked him why the McFood at McYou-Know-Where’s doesn’t exactly taste like European gourmet cooking.

‘We have to cater to the American public,” he replied. ”I am 31 years here, nearly as long as McDonald’s. I have also become Americanized. McDonald’s is perfect American food, you see. But never are any restrictions put on me when I do a product.”

So there you go. The McRib came about as a way to Americanize food. I like its history, but I will pass on the sandwich, thank you very much.