Chew on this, two

TRIGGER WARNING: The following post contains commentary denigrating to women and certain fresh vegetables. Please relocate to your safe space immediately. If you do not have a safe space or know what one is, continue reading.

McDonald’s is announcing significant changes to its food. Some of these changes are welcome, such as switching to antibiotic-free chicken, part of the responsible sourcing movement that many other restaurants have adopted. And there’s the removal of artificial preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup from their products. It’s a good move from a marketing perspective because it makes food seem healthier even if there’s no clear scientific consensus.

Most importantly, these are changes that can be made without altering the taste or appearance of the food. Other changes are more disruptive. And while McDonald’s can’t admit it, I know who is responsible for them. Women.

Hear me out.

Women get bored. Men can eat the same thing every day for months or years and be perfectly fine with it. Not women. One of the burdens we men must endure is to suddenly be prohibited from visiting a favorite eatery because our wife and/or girlfriend announces that she’s now “tired of it.”

Women even get bored with the whole concept of eating at a restaurant. This is why they always want to sit outside. Air conditioning is the single greatest invention in human history, but if you go to a restaurant that has outdoor seating, and you have a woman in your party, and there is not an active tornado warning in your immediate area, you will end up sitting outside, with the sun beating down on your bald spot and vicious wasps dive-bombing your plate and gusts of wind blowing chips in your face and your napkin down the street, as you look wistfully through the restaurant window at all the other patrons sitting in soft comfortable chairs, pointing at you and laughing and enjoying their beverages without having to strain floating insects through their teeth.

McDonald’s marketing people are not dummies. They know that we guys will consume Big Macs at a steady pace, but they have to keep offering new things to keep the ladies coming in. This is because women bring children in with them. Keeping the kiddies hooked is key to McDonald’s future and they know it. The trick is finding ways to keep women interested without completely ruining everything for the rest of us.

For example:

This is lettuce. People call it “iceberg” now but when I was growing up in the sixties it was called “lettuce” and there was no other kind. There doesn’t need to be any other kind. But nowadays, people have a real bug up their butt about iceberg lettuce. And again, by “people,” I mean “women.” Quoting from the press release, among the changes McDonald’s made was:

“…refreshing McDonald’s premium salad blend in June 2015 by replacing iceberg lettuce with fresh romaine, baby spinach and baby kale, and making further enhancements in June 2016 with the addition of Tuscan red leaf lettuce and ribbon-cut carrot curls.”

I used to like McDonald’s salads. But their salads were not intended for me. They were meant to bring in the ladies. And so, goodbye iceberg.

I can live with this. If McDonald’s needs female customers to thrive, I don’t mind them offering fancy-ass salads made with lawn clippings, and grilled chicken sandwiches on artisan rolls with avocado and garlic-chipotle-sriracha mayonnaise, as long as I can still get my McDoubles and McChickens and Quarter Pounders.

However, McDonald’s is starting to mess with the burgers now, and that’s when I get agitated.

As I said earlier, the future of McDonald’s relies on getting the kids hooked, just as they did with me as a toddler in 1966. The first hamburger I ever ate was a McDonald’s hamburger. The upshot is that now, even in my fifties, that regular McDonald’s hamburger is still the baseline against which I judge all other burgers.

As far as I’m concerned, a burger consists of one or two beef patties, a soft white bun, ketchup, yellow mustard, dill pickle chips, a scattering of grilled minced yellow onions, and optionally, a slice of American cheese. Period. And if you deviate from that, you better have a justification beyond being a pretentious asshole.

The “classic” McDonald’s items are not haphazard combinations of ingredients. They were engineered, developed to have a perfect balance of flavors and textures. The ratio of beef to cheese to bread to special sauce on a Big Mac did not come about by accident. The Quarter Pounder is not just an oversized version of the regular burger – the substitution of larger chunks of raw yellow onion complements the bigger beef bite and wouldn’t work on the smaller burger. There is science here, people.

The mistake made by most of your jack-off purveyors of “gourmet” burgers is that they don’t pay attention to this flavor balance. Their goal is not so much to create a good burger as to call attention to themselves through the use of “unique,” strongly-flavored toppings that blow you out of the water. And in the struggle to stay competitive and maintain growth, all of the major burger chains (not just McDonald’s) are trying to compete with the sort of burgers you find at pubs and higher-end eateries.

Let’s focus on just a couple of toppings – onions and pickles:

This is your basic sweet yellow onion. It’s the iceberg lettuce of onions. It does everything right and there is no need to use any other type of onion for anything, ever. Raw, it has just the right level of sharpness and crunch to blend well with beef. But when sautéed, it develops a far more complex flavor as it mellows and sweetens. Ground beef has no better complement than this onion.

This is a red onion, otherwise known as an “abomination.” Excessively sharp and pungent, it is favored by people with malfunctioning taste buds or (to quote Calvin Trillin) a naugahyde palate. When sautéed, it does mellow similarly to the yellow onion and is useful in many dishes, but on burgers it is almost always served raw, where it overpowers the flavor of the beef and all other toppings, making it the only thing you taste in each bite.

These are dill pickle chips. Note that the label describes them as “Hamburger Dill Chips.” There is a reason for this. The subtle, vinegary flavor mixes wonderfully with the mustard and ketchup, enhancing the overall flavor of the burger fortunate enough to receive them.

Kosher pickles are delicious when served individually from a brine-filled glass barrel, or sliced and served from a bowl at your local Jewish deli. On a hamburger, however, the garlic blasts into your sinuses and causes you to completely forget what you are eating or what town you are currently in. If your burger has both kosher pickles and raw red onions, you could replace the beef patty with a cork beverage coaster and not notice a difference.

Last year McDonald’s rolled out a “deluxe” Quarter Pounder which was made with red onions, kosher pickles, and mayo. In other words, not a Quarter Pounder. Wendy’s made the change five years ago and today all of their burgers are served with red onion and kosher crinkle-cut pickles.

I don’t eat Wendy’s burgers any more. And I can only hope McDonald’s doesn’t try to emulate them and destroy its classic items just to pacify bored female diners. I fear a future in which the only way to get a burger dressed the way I want is out of the microwave at the gas station or, God forbid, cooking it myself. Because my wife sure as hell isn’t going to cook one for me after she reads this.