Saturday, October 29, 2022

The Pursuit of Happy-Meal-ness (With a McRib for Good Measure)

Happy Meal Halloween Eve-Eve! After my midnight Mountain Dew and cup of Death Wish coffee, I treated myself to some extra sleep, which is why today's post is later than normal.

Yesterday, after work, I called 12 different McDonalds locations and completed my trio of 2022's Boo-Buckets. Before that, I hadn't eaten anything from McDonalds in years, so it was quite the adventure. 

McDonald's and I have a bit of a history. As a kid, we ate it occasionally. Mainly when we were with my birth father. Hot cakes in styrofoam trays, circular sausage patties, happy meals, and as I got bigger (and hungrier) my go-to was the 2-cheeseburger meal with fries and a coke. With mom, it was more-so the occasional order of nuggets with honey. Then, when I was in high school, Morgan Spurlock's, "Super Size Me," was released and I was obsessed. Not so much with the overall experiment of eating junk food every day and it being bad for you (pretty obvious outcome) but more-so probing into the global phenomenon that was McDonalds, and how something familiar and recognizable around the world could be a bad thing. All with quick editing, funny songs, and amazing artwork. I even brought it with me to school when we had the option to watch movies in class, but most people opted for Mean Girls instead.

"Super Size Me," killed it's namesake, put a negative spin on the company, and triggered mockumentary style copycats like, "Super High Me." To this day, out of all the fast food chains, McDonalds is still short-hand for overconsumption and unhealthy eating in America, in spite of it being a global chain. 

Spurlock has also fallen from grace. After a sexual harassment allegation, his infidelities, and the successor to the original, "Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!," being poorly received, he stepped away from the limelight. But, I was never into -him-. I was into, "Super Size Me." SUPER into it. I had this small, portable, DVD player in my teen bedroom, and the amount of times I re-watched this DVD is staggering. And, likely as a result, I just, stopped eating at McDonalds. 

I went from absolutely no McDonalds for years, to eating 5 Happy meals in the past 7 days. My own, personal, "Super Size Me." Or, a much less catchy title, "The Pursuit of Happy-Meal-ness." All for plastic buckets. 

Cashing in on Millennial nostalgia, Boo Buckets are back, and everyone 30-and-up lost their minds.  Including me. Rumors at first, buzzing through the online foodie and spooky communities, and then it was finally confirmed. We have three buckets, each an amalgamation of buckets past. 

I personally don't have memories of getting my meals in the Halloween Buckets, but we had them at my mom's house, and used them as Halloween decorations. We had to have gotten them at some point. My excitement didn't stem from personalized nostalgia of having one and eating it, more so the overarching collective nostalgia of them being a familiar face on the holidays. (My love for pop culture and all things spooky and Halloween-y didn't hurt either.) 

So, I decided to try and get one

First stop, a local McDonald's that had them listed for sale on their app. They had them, but didn't say which bucket. The double-wide drive-thru had lines wrapped around the building, so I went inside to order. It's so different! Ordering screens to bypass cashiers, fancy soda machines with touch screens, and the poor staff running around like crazy to take care of impatient customers in cars and delivery apps. (Anyone mean to fast food employees is a dick.)

I approached the large 2001: A Space Odyssey-looking monolith-screen, placed my order, and shortly after I was handed two white ghost buckets, one for me, and one for my sister. Ghost is the bottom tier bucket. Too simple. Too blobby. I had been hoping for goblin/witch, or pumpkin. I was like, "this is fine." And it was, until it wasn't. 

After a rough night the next day, my friend called other locations, found the pumpkin ones, went out and got them for us as a little pick-me-up. (Really appreciated it!) McPumpkin achieved!

But now I had 2/3. Dare I complete the set? I originally didn't think so. Went to work, everything was fine, then a bunch of stuff went south right before closing Friday night. Tired and stressed (drinking all that caffeine this week didn't help), I got into my car, and called 12 different locations. I found the last bucket, the McGoblin, which is very obviously a misnamed witch. Drove out, got one for my sister, my friend, and I, and grabbed a McRib for good measure. (Apparently it's going away forever now? We've been down this road before, but I figured, Mcfuck it, why not?) 

We each have the full trio! Happy and complete, but my stomach can't say the same thing. 

In my pursuit, I have eaten several cheeseburgers, fries, kids-size sodas, and half a McRib. All within a week's time. My collectible-monkey-brain is satisfied, but my insides are full of McDisappointment. 

The first cheeseburger I ate, made me feel weird childhood things. It tasted familiar, but also, as an adult who loves to cook now, it also didn't really taste like food? Like, the burger patty has a texture that I have no idea how to achieve in home cooking. It's difference in quality is like, a boardwalk prize-stuffed animal vs. a stuffed toy you buy in the store. It's a bit mean, but this is the wet-newspaper of burgers, topped with salt, pepper, a slice of cheese, ketchup, yellow mustard, and the teeny tiniest diced onions. (I always loved their tiny onions, but White Castle does it better.) Eating it left me craving real food, but, seeing that paper yellow wrapper, made me feel like I was a kid again. 

Next bucket, pumpkin, I opted for the same cheese burger meal. This one was prepared a bit better and tasted more like I remembered it being in my childhood. More sauce-forward, with lots of ketchup and mustard. Originally I dreaded eating it again so soon, but then I finished my meal no problem. And the nostalgia of seeing the yellow paper wrapper still hadn't worn off. It tasted kind of sad, but not sad enough to dull my warm fuzzy feelings. 

Yesterday, I did it again! I got the green bucket with yet another cheeseburger. This time swapping one of our sodas for the orange Hi-C drink we got as kids, and went full nostalgia. And you know what? I liked the cheeseburger even more this time? Maybe the addictive nature of fast food really is no joke. Am I playing with McFire? It was already getting more familiar, and having it tied to happy Halloween and childhood feelings is probably a dangerous combination. 

The McRib thankfully extinguished that flame the moment it started. I was pretty sure I had reviewed one on the blog years ago, but I can't find a post anywhere, so better scoop it up on it's farewell tour.

It's bad. Really bad. Like, near dog-food bad. I hate tearing products apart, because someone out there loves this thing, but...look at it. A pork-based patty, covered in smoky BBQ sauce, topped with chunky onions, two pickles, and a soft bun. The sauce is smoky, and sweet, not great, but not bad. Onions are just onions, and McDonalds pickles are the one product I do find myself pining for after all these years. But that not food. It's so soft, texture less, and the flavor is kind of like a hot-dog with liquid smoke? Whatever goodwill the children's cheeseburgers had built, was immediately dismantled. My sister agreed. McRib was McRough. 

The spell was broken. Now that my buckets are collected, and my nostalgia sated, I can part ways with McDonalds again. This time more-so as friends. 

Quick aside about the buckets themselves, at first I thought they were so much smaller than the OG ones, but when I got them home, they're actually relatively the same, sans lid. It was -ME-, I was small back then. So obvious, but still such a revelation to my adult-brain. 

Also, I am still salty that these don't have real lids, but this handle-lid-abomination is McCanon. (Okay, I'll McStop.) In the 2000's this was how the buckets were released, with shaped handles. It was past my time, so I was unfamiliar with them. The buckets continued with tie-ins like, Scooby Doo and Monster High. They're legit, but I still think they're stupid. There are 3-faces per bucket, and a stationary handle made to look like the previous lids, but there is no perfect way to display them. Choosing a face results in the handle being off-center and destroying the lid-illusion. Facing it in a way that make the lid illusion work, results in being between faces. It's lose-lose! 

Even with it's faults, I have these buckets in my possession, and I am happier for it. 

This Sunday, October 30th from 2-5pm EST/US 
I'll be guesting on my friend, QueenzDragon's, Twitch stream! 

Today's post was filled with rambles, so I'll just remind you that tomorrow I'll be streaming with Halloween snacks and candy on my friend's Stream for a local cat charity. Tune in if you happen to be around!

Fans of this would also like: Burger King's HA1loween Burger, Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue (1990),  or the Ghost Bustin' Burger

Keep Up with My Adventures on Social Media!   

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