How the Army designed the world’s weirdest meat

Can the United States Army claim credit for the McRib?

That bizarre fast-food creation has long been the subject of cultish adoration and surprisingly credible conspiracy theories (like the one that speculates its mysterious appearances are timed to low pork prices).

But the best speculation about the McRib may be a new theory about its origins: that it’s part of our lives thanks to the United States Army’s quietly revolutionary food lab, located in Natick, Massachusetts…

“What the Army develops is the backbone,” Anastacia Marx de Salcedo says. “The private companies make it more palatable for the consumer.”

She’s the author of Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat, a new book that tracks Army food research’s wide influence on the culture at large. It’s a rollicking, yet encyclopedic, look at the Army’s role in everything from industrialized meats to energy bars. And that includes the restructured-meat masterpiece known as the McRib.

So, who gets credited for developing restructured meat?

…Marx de Salcedo identifies Dr. Roger Mandigo as one contender, who told Marx de Salcedo that in 1970, “the project was funded by the National Pork Council with the pork producers check-off fund … our original restructured pork was shaped like chops; McDonald’s adapted them for their McRibs.” Marx de Salcedo also notes the work of Dr. Dale Huffman, a professor who developed a restructured pork chop in 1969 that he originally tried to sell to Burger King.

But the most interesting contender might be…John Secrist, a food scientist at the Natick Soldier Center for Research and Development. That’s the place where the US Army develops its groundbreaking food for the troops as part of its Combat Feeding Program…Secrist told Marx de Salcedo that in the ’60s, Natick asked him and his team to develop a cheaper version of steaks and chops.

The Army then partnered with a meat flaking company in Ohio in order to break down meat and reassemble it into the meatlike blobs that are familiar today in the form of the McRib. Natick enlisted many meatpackers to do trial runs to see if the technology was viable, and as a result, it made its way to the private sector. “Denny’s used our restructured beefsteak in their restaurant,” Secrist said, “and McDonald’s McRib is as close to our product as you can get.”

The Army didn’t sit in McDonald’s kitchen and tell the chefs how to season their gloriously weird ribs. But Marx de Salcedo argues that they did provide the driving force to make restructured meat a commercial reality. Even Mandigo, the food scientist often credited with the McRib’s technology, told Salcedo that “the military allowed us to use the processes they developed.”

At least we can forget any stories about the McRib being developed at Area 51 from extraterrestrial technology, alien animals.

Or is that what we’re supposed to do?

Japanese burger-freaks have a chance to smell like a Whopper

For hamburger aficionados who want the smell even when they can’t get a bite, Burger King is putting the scent into a limited-edition fragrance.

Burger King said…that the Whopper grilled beef burger-scented cologne will be sold only on April 1, and only in Japan.

Sounds too good to be true? It’s not an April Fools’ Day joke, though the company chose the date deliberately.

The limited “Flame Grilled” fragrance can be purchased at 5,000 yen (about $40), including the burger. There will be only 1,000 of them.

Burger King is hoping the scent will seduce new fans for their burgers. I know it certainly would have the opposite effect on me. And I love hamburgers.

Breakfast of Champions

Light toast – my homebaked 1/4 whole wheat bread
Natural brown eggs [every native New Englander knows this is appropriate] – large
— lightly fried or poached — depending on mood
tomato slices
Provolone cheese slices
Tuong Ot Tói Viet-Nam chili garlic sauce
Season to taste

Yum.

Classier protest than whipped cream pies


First – the fries

Anti-austerity protesters got close enough to Belgium’s prime minister on Monday to splatter him with a helping of the national dish – fries and mayo.

Pictures from the business event in Namur showed Charles Michel, 39, smiling as a woman squirted sauce over his suit. His spokesman said he would not press charges, and declined comment on the breach of security around the premier of a country that has been a major recruiting hub for jihadists fighting in Syria.


Then – the mayo

Best fries in the world, so they say.

I have to say the best ever I’ve had were from a truck near Upton Park on the way to a West Ham football match.

Best in Santa Fe IMHO? Second Street Brewery.

Compare Brazil’s dietary guidelines to the USDA’s

As anyone who has read Marion Nestle’s Food Politics or Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food knows, the US Department of Agriculture’s attempts to issue dietary advice have always been haunted by industry influence and a reductionist vision of nutrition science. The department finally ditched its silly pyramids a few years ago, but its guidelines remain vague and arbitrary (for example, how does dairy merit inclusion as one of five food groups?).

In Brazil, a hotbed of sound progressive nutritional thinking, the Ministry of Health has proven that governmental dietary advice need not be delivered in timid, industry-palatable bureaucratese. Check out its plain-spoken, unimpeachable, and down-right industry-hostile new guidelines (hat tip Marion Nestle):

1. Make natural or minimally processed foods the basis of your diet

2. Use oils, fats, salt, and sugar in small amounts when seasoning and cooking natural or minimally processed foods and to create culinary preparations

3. Limit consumption of processed foods

4. Avoid consumption of ultra-processed products

5. Eat regularly and carefully in appropriate environments and, whenever possible, in company

6. Shop in places that offer a variety of natural or minimally processed foods

7. Develop, exercise and share culinary skills

8. Plan your time to make food and eating important in your life

9. Out of home, prefer places that serve freshly made meals

10. Be wary of food advertising and marketing

I’ve survived several generations of the USDA Food Pyramid-scheme mostly by ignoring it. Fortunately, half my cultural heritage is Italian and what folks call the Mediterranean Diet, nowadays is what I was brought up with. Only we called it cooking like Grandma.

Whether it’s Mario Batali or Lidia Bastianich, examples of the real deal are available from these and many other exponents of Mediterranean food. Try it. And as ever – in moderation.

From the pages of IMPROBABLE RESEARCH

$_12

Dr. Pravin Jaiprakash Gupta, MS, FICS, FAIS, FASCRS, FACS of the Fine Morning Hospital and Research Center, Laxminagar, Nagpur, India, presents, in the journal Digestive Surgery, Vol. 24, No. 5, 2007, a paper entitled : Red Hot Chilli Consumption Is Harmful in Patients Operated for Anal Fissure – A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Study.

“Patients were randomly assigned to receive analgesics and fiber supplement alone (control patients) or consumption of 1.5 g chilli powder twice daily along with identical fiber and analgesics (chilli group). “

“Conclusion: This study shows that consumption of red chillies after anal fissure surgery should be forbidden to avoid postoperative symptoms.”

Note: Dr. Gupta is also known for his invention — “A surgical device which is called as radiowave gun handle was named after him as ‘Pravin Gupta Procto Gun’ by the famous USA company Ellman International Inc.”

Anyone living where the state question is “red or green?” knows the answer to this study well in advance. You only have to make a mistake like this once to remember the result for the rest of your life.

Note: Everyone in New Mexico has their personal favorites. The illustration at right is mine. Try it on a sandwich of leftover roast pork for a breakfast treat.

Monday morning reminiscence of Italy over breakfast


Click to enlarge source

A gentle rain, this morning. One of the delights of monsoon season, sometimes, in high desert country. Sunrise shining through the rain. Felt and smelled like nothing but my Italian grandparents’ farm in New York state – or Tuscany, which never got so cold in the winter.

My notes about a morning in Bivigliano are over at my friend Om Malik’s personal blog. The link is behind the photo above, taken in his vacation, the R&R he’s still immersed in – in Tuscany.

And Monday breakfast often depends on leftovers. I ate just a tad extra of my wife’s pork stew, yesterday; so no meat in the most important meal of the day – yet. Only my second cup of coffee with a touch of cinnamon in the brew, dark roast and strong as usual.

I’d baked a couple of long slender loaves of Italian bread, last week, instead of the usual boule. A quarter whole wheat, three-quarters unbleached white flour per usual. I turned one into broccoli bread the way the maestro did it at the Grand Bakery in my old Fairhaven neighborhood. I stuffed the loaf with steamed broccoli, minced garlic lightly sauteed in e.v. olive oil, dried red chile fragments.

The two heels of that loaf remained from the weekend. So, I split them, leaving a little broccoli in each piece. Toasted them till the sharp edges of the bread were just turning brown. Rubbed the stiff crust with a clove of garlic and brushed each surface with more of my favorite Sicilian extra virgin olive oil, and just a few grains of Malden sea salt.

Sat down with my coffee and Paul Desmond on Pandora streaming. “So long, Frank Lloyd Wright”.

The rain should stop, soon. Sheila’s a true New Mexico dog and won’t come outside for a walk with me until it does.