MAD DOG: Thirty Something Burgers

The Big Mac is thirty years old. Think about it, if this was the 60s we wouldn't be able to trust it anymore. If this was the 80s it would be starring in a TV show about whining yuppies who have nothing to whine about. But this being the 90s, we'll celebrate by leaning back in our La-Z-boy recliner, chowing down a few more of the triple-decker burgers, and clicking the remote until we've either watched all the TV shows that are plugging it, from the Discovery Channel's "Stalking the Wild Big Mac" to the Fox Network's "When Big Macs Go Bad", or need to call Batteries-2-Go to deliver some emergency AAA's for the remote, whichever comes first.Amazingly, McDonald's sells about 600 million of the sandwiches a year, which is three for every man, woman, and child in the United States who should be out exercising rather than sitting in their car asking for "Two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun -- and while you're at it, supersize it", all the while trying to understand the incomprehensible squawking that's coming out of the speaker at the drive-through. To put it another way, it's over a billion patties, nearly 2 billion bun pieces, 15 billion sesame seeds, and enough cattle to upholster 75,000 living room sofas.You have to give McDonald's credit for the Big Mac. After all, thirty years is a long time in the burger world. In that time, McDonald's tried out a lot of new products, with only Chicken McNuggets catching the world's fancy, proving that the American public prefers their food to be chopped, reformed, and have a name which resembles something you don't want to step on in a barnyard.Not everything they've done has been a success. A couple of years ago McDonald's, jealous of all the publicity Coke got for releasing New Coke -- the Waterworld of soft drinks -- came out with the Arch Deluxe. In a sales and marketing coup that makes a Pauley Shore film retrospective sound like a killer idea, McDonald's actually managed to sell one burger for each time they ran an incomprehensible ad on TV. Unfortunately they didn't run enough ads to make any money. While this made the Arch Deluxe at least as good a seller as their diet-conscious McLean sandwich (motto: "At least it looks like a burger"), that's not really saying much, since the McLean sank quicker than "Titanic" on fast forward. But try telling this to the citizens of Irwindale, California and you might hear a different story. This town of 1,045 people has won the right to post a sign declaring it to be "The Home of the Big Mac Fanatics," and who could blame them if they did? After all, if Baker can try to attract people by calling itself "The Gateway to Death Valley" then it's obvious that good city mottoes are getting hard to come by. Besides, it beats the alternative, "Named After a Guy Named Irwin."For reasons which even the residents of Irwindale are afraid to think about, the McDonald's there sell 337 Big Macs a year per resident, though to be fair that figure includes sandwiches sold to travelers, people from surrounding towns, and Chihuahuas which are tired of eating gorditas.In general, though, fast food restaurants are having a tougher time of it these days. Overall sales are static at McDonald's 23,300 restaurants. Pizza Hut recently closed their two Moscow outlets, reportedly because the Russian economy is flatter than a thin-crust pizza, though it also may be linked to having used former Soviet president Mikhail "That Ain't A Pizza Stain on My Head" Gorbachev as a spokesperson.But worse signs are on the horizon. If a Dallas-based company has its way, the days of going out for fast food may soon be numbered -- they intend on making all food fast food. They're getting ready to put out an oven called the TurboChef which they claim will roast a chicken in four minutes, cook vegetables in 100 seconds, and turn out a four-minute egg while it's still in the hen. Just kidding. About the egg, anyway. To do that you'd have to put the hen in the TurboChef, and even then you'd have to cook it for four minutes while piling chairs against the door so the protesters from PETA couldn't get in the kitchen.The ovens work by using a combination of turbo-charged hot air, microwaves, and mirrors left over from a Penn and Teller magic trick that was too gross for even David Letterman to air. Think about it. Now you'll be able to make Minute Rice in ten seconds, Quick Oats in five seconds, and have instant pudding ready to eat before you can open the box.The company already makes a version of the oven for commercial use. This explains why you no longer have to remember to order Peking Duck the day before you want it, your main course so often shows up before your appetizers, and they won't flambe your Crepes Suzette tableside since it's too cumbersome to roll the TurboChef out into the dining room.If this works as promised, it's hard to imagine that Big Macs will make it another thirty years. Once the TurboChef is built into the La-Z-boy we'll just hit the "Food" button, a menu will appear onscreen, we'll choose Big Mac, and before we know it we'll be happily munching our two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions on a sesame seed bun while watching PSN, the Pauley Shore Network. Does it get any better than this?


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