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My very small and mostly new family is woefully short on holiday traditions. We've made a mighty festive go of it over the past month, thanks primarily to the yule log channel and cranberry bitters, but simply upping our intake of Christmas carols and Santa-hattans hasn't quite filled the bill.
Oh, we've gone to a couple different Nutcrackers, eaten a few tree-shaped cookies, and worn more red than usual—to the naked eye, it may appear as if we've got the holiday acknowledgment game covered. But something's been missing, and I've finally realized that something is seasonally specific celebratory pork.
In a just world in which I had a properly arranged marriage, this would be a big pink Christmas ham. But the fates instead lashed me to an otherwise lovely woman who doesn't like ham. That's right. Doesn't like ham. No, not for any ethical or religious reasons. My beloved lunatic has simply made the independent decision to dislike this land's greatest meat bounty.
I like pork in all its many glorious incarnations and my wife approves of a few, so I can probably slide some kind heavily compromised tenderloin across the holiday table without much fuss. But I do that all the time, so while it will make for a fine meal, it won't make for a special one.
It turns out I have only one reasonable and convenient option for a festive year-end pork tradition: Yup, the McRib's back again. You'll find it nationwide at participating McDonald's through December.
As long as McDonald's keeps riling up the fast food masses with an annual reissue of the industry's only meaningful non-breakfast, pork-based sandwich, I'll keep writing about it. And every year the intro about my personal life will get longer, because every year I'll have less to say about the fairly mundane McRib.
Don't get me wrong—it's a pretty good sandwich. But its following is derived largely from its manipulated scarcity and its utter lack of competition. I'm not so certain the McRib would inspire anywhere near the same devotion in a more crowded fast food porkscape. But alas, it doesn't have to. All any champion needs to do is beat the field. If there is no field, the champ just has to be better than nothing, and eating a McRib is an emphatically more pleasurable experience than eating no pork sandwich at all.
The McRib doesn't have a particularly porky flavor, which is more of a conceptual problem than a practical one. It tastes like a heavily sauced chicken-or-whatever patty with raw onions and oversalted pickles. This half-assed approach actually works, though, because the sauce is among the best in the fast food business, despite being little more than sugary ketchup with very little depth or spice. McRib sauce has just enough vinegar to suggest a departure from the stuff they put on base model hamburgers, which is all the very forgiving population of McRib diehards require.
We just want McDonald's to help us along in the happy delusion that we're eating something unique. McRibs aren't great, but they're good enough to appease this tradition-seeker.