McApple Pie of My Eye

If you know me personally at all, chances are you’ve heard about The Pie. Maybe I’ve even taken it out to show you, let you touch it, encouraged you to sniff it. The Pie is legend, and has been for a great many years now. And if you know about The Pie, then you know we’ve just passed a significant milestone on its journey through the ages and into immortality.

The rest of you I’m going to have to bring up to speed.

I mentioned an important anniversary several weeks ago in this blog. Not the one related to the blog itself, nor my comic book work. I’m talking about that other, mysterious anniversary, I was so specifically vague about. The twenty-five year anniversary.

Rather than recap the whole sordid story from the beginning, let us instead begin at the end – or at least the end as it stood before I started writing this blog post for public consumption. Allow me to share with you a letter I recently composed to a rather famous corporate entity. Yes, a proper letter, on paper, and sent through actual government postal systems to head offices in the United States and Canada. Here, without further ado, are the precise contents of those pages, followed by the pair of photographs mentioned as being enclosed in each copy.

Customer Relations
McDonald’s Corporation
2111 McDonald’s Dr.
Oak Brook, IL
60523
U.S.A.

Customer Relations
1 McDonald’s Place
Toronto, Ontario
Canada
M3C 3L4

September 17, 2013

In late 1988, while at a McDonald’s franchise in Montreal’s west island, a friend purchased a McDonald’s apple pie for me. Although there were burgers and fries consumed that evening, the apple pie went untouched and survived to see the next morning as leftovers. However, it didn’t get eaten the next day either. Nor the next. In fact, it went largely forgotten for several weeks, at which point it was rediscovered, sitting in its cardboard packaging, looking just as fresh and scrumptious as the day it was bought. Amazingly, it hadn’t gone bad, didn’t smell, and appeared to be absolutely unchanged. It could have easily been reheated and served with no discernible loss in quality.

But rather than do just that, I held onto it. Perhaps I had already developed a sentimental attachment to the pie, or maybe I was simply curious as to just how long it could last. That was twenty-five years ago now, and I still have it. Lesser food would have rotted away to nothing, but not your resilient apple pie. It never developed so much as a spot of mould, never changed colour, never went bad, and never stank. Quite the contrary, it smelled strongly of delicious fresh apples for the first five years. Since then, the smell has faded but remains faintly detectible. The only sign that it’s any the worse for wear is that it has dried out with age. It still rests, as it has for a quarter century, in its original box, exposed to the open air through the windowed holes of the packaging. No attempts have ever been made to freeze it, refrigerate it, or even keep it in a properly burped Tupperware container. It just sits, day after day, in my office closet, stoic and unchanging. As a matter of fact, the cardboard box it came is has aged far less gracefully. That, at least, has yellowed.

I don’t know how thoroughly you test your own products, but I expect twenty-five years is considerably longer than the usual quality control checks and balances your food is put through. I am, obviously, astounded and amazed by the calibre of a mere dessert that can survive this long, immune to decay, bugs, and even bacteria. Apparently, McDonald’s makes food so good, it never goes bad.

To celebrate this silver anniversary, I’m planning a media blitz with my connections in local and national news outlets. This will include interviews, public appearances by the pie, and perhaps even a ceremonial tasting – all to be recorded and uploaded to the major social media sites. This story has all the human interest and instantly recognizable corporate-branding elements that journalists love. The copy practically writes itself. Fingers crossed, the story will go viral and draw the attention of international media. I fully expect your pie to be the world’s most famous pastry in 2014.

My reason for sharing all of this with you, is to give you the opportunity to comment on the miraculous product your chefs have concocted. If you’d like to weigh in with a few quotes, or dispatch a PR person to accept the accolades during the inevitable broadcast interviews, by all means let us coordinate our efforts. You may contact me at your convenience.

And, obviously, if you’d care to seize the moment to boost sales through word of mouth, now would be the time to start planning. I can see the advertisements now. “The McDonald’s apple pie: timeless;” or perhaps “McDonald’s: spoil yourself with the food that never spoils.” I’m not an advertising executive, but I’m sure you have people who would be proficient at whipping up a campaign to take full advantage of this exceptional publicity opportunity.

Enclosed you’ll find a couple of recent photos of your quarter-century pie I printed out for you. I’m sure we’ll be able to get some much nicer, tastier, glamour shots of it once the professional photographers start turning their lights and cameras on this remarkable pastry. I can’t wait for this story to break. Everyone I’ve spoken to is intensely interested in this story and anticipates overwhelming public reaction.

Thanks again for making such a splendid product.

Sincerely,

Shane Simmons

applepie1applepie2Corporate baiting aside, this is all true. Well, mostly. Obviously, I’m not the naive media-rube I make myself out to be in the letter. I tried to play innocent, hoping that might provoke a response from McDonald’s better than a directly confrontational accusation of misdeeds at best, poisoning the public at worst. To date, there has been no reply at all from McDonald’s, U.S. or Canada, and their opportunity to weight in (or buy my silence) has expired. Now, at last, the whole truth must be told.

Here’s the real backstory of The Pie, purposely glossed over in the letter. On October 14, 1988, several friends and I stopped for a late-night bite to eat at a west-island Montreal McDonald’s franchise. We’d probably been out at a movie, but I don’t remember the exact context.

I wasn’t having anything to eat. Not that I was necessarily above a McDonald’s burger – I enjoyed eating there as a kid, I would eat there again a few times as an adult to recreate a specific mood for nostalgia purposes – but the food really is cheap crap. It always was. I also don’t care to have a bunch of minimum-wage teenagers prepare my food. I’ve heard stories.

While I was chatting at a table, one of my friends returned with his order and handed me a cardboard carton.

“I got you something,” he said.

It was The Pie – a McDonald’s apple pie, or “chausson aux pommes” as the bilingual packaging told me.

“You know I’m not eating this shit!” I declared, ungratefully.

And he well-knew why. Everybody at the table did.

Recently, we’d learned of a friend-of-a-friend who had enrolled in a course called Chemistry of the Environment at John Abbott College, the Quebec CEGEP we all attended. In this course, they performed studies on common chemical and organic materials we all encounter in our daily lives. One such study involved purchasing the major items on the McDonald’s menu and observing how they rotted over the course of several weeks. Food, of course, spoils, rots, and eventually decomposes. Different foods do this at different rates of speed and in different ways. The McDonald’s take-out was no different.

The burger of the study, it was noted, went rotten when left in the open air, much as you would expect normal food to. The fries, however, appeared unchanged after a couple of weeks. This was due to the exterior being coated in grease, which acted to preserve the surface. When broken open, it was revealed that the interior of each fry had gone bad and hollowed out. An interesting result, but not shocking. The fate of the other foodstuff also went largely as expected. But the apple pie… That was another matter entirely.

Over the course of the weeks of study, there was no change to the pie. None whatsoever. No indication of discolouration or spoilage or mould or rot of any kind. It appeared to be entirely inert. Further study and experimentation was warranted.

The apple pie was dissected and examined under a microscope. The results were astonishing. The McDonald’s apple pie proved to have no nutritional value whatsoever. It simply wasn’t food. It looked like food, it tasted like food, it smelled like food. But it was all a lie. There was no food in it. Not a hint. Not even enough to interest single-celled bacteria with the munchies. Wood and cardboard shavings were discovered in the crust under magnification. That was about as organic as it got. There were certainly no apples to be found.

This anecdote made the rounds with the expected level of interest and good humour. And then it was largely forgotten, until my friend presented me with an actual McDonald’s apple pie of my own he’d purchased with spare change. I expected he wanted me to eat it on a dare.

“No,” he assured me, “I want you to hold onto it.”

Even then I was known as something of a hoarder. “Collector” is a nicer way to put it, although I’d taken to facetiously calling myself “The National Archives” due to my pathological need to accumulate, catalogue, and file all the things that fit into my eclectic fields of interests. I knew immediately what he meant. He wanted me to file this purported food item away – for years in all likelihood – in order to definitively prove that it would never spoil, rot or otherwise go bad. And so I have.

“You still have that thing?” I’ve been asked from time to time over the years.

“How long has it been?” came the question at regular intervals.

New friends and acquaintances would have to be briefed on the entire backstory when it came up in conversation. I was never the one to bring it up. I’m sure entire years went by where I completely forgot I owned this thing that continued to rest, openly exposed to the time and the air in its original ventilated packaging, somewhere in a closet with my boxes of office supplies. When reminded, I would have to do the math to remember how many years had passed. I once threatened to heat it up and serve it to somebody I didn’t like (I had no one specific in mind) for its tenth anniversary. But that never happened, and another fifteen years have piled on since.

So what does one do with a vintage piece of fast food – so vintage now, it qualifies as an outright antique? Other than take it out and admire it occasionally? Well, I suppose one shares it — with the whole world (many of whom will read this and realize they’re younger than The Pie) via the internet (which The Pie also predates).

And how much longer do I plan to hold onto this thing? Will a thirtieth anniversary be celebrated? A fiftieth? After twenty-five years, I feel the point has been made. But it seems unlikely I can bring myself to part with it now. We are linked, The Pie and I. I can only hope McDonald’s itself contacts me with an offer to buy it for their files, where it will be suppressed, never to be seen or discussed again. Or perhaps a curator will want it as the only permanent display in a museum of twentieth-century foods. I know I don’t want to have to will it to someone.

My expectations for The Pie are modest, but my hopes are high, and I wish it well as it persists into an unknown future and an uncertain fate. Where it concerns The Pie, we can only be sure of one fact moving forward.

Nobody’s going to eat the damn thing.

I’m guessing the number “12” written in an allocated white space in ballpoint pen for shelf-life purposes refers to October 12th rather than 12 o’clock. The pie was purchased on the 14th. I speculate that it was two days old when bought – hardly a significant age given an infinite lifespan.

I’m guessing the number “12” written in an allocated white space in ballpoint pen for shelf-life purposes refers to October 12th rather than 12 o’clock. The pie was purchased on the 14th. I speculate that it was two days old when bought – hardly a significant age given an infinite lifespan.

“Caution: Filling Is Hot” warns the flap. Caution: Filling Is Not Food may have been more apropos.

“Caution: Filling Is Hot” warns the flap. Caution: Filling Is Not Food may have been more apropos.

89 thoughts on “McApple Pie of My Eye

  1. What do you expect dried out pie to do? This blog only shows the writer doesn’t know basic science. It doesnt say anything about the food.

  2. Yikes, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to look at McDonalds the same way again. I worked at McDs about the same time as your purchase (though in Ontario not the west island) so I can fill in at least one bit of the mystery. The 12 in the bottom flap is the hour. Pies were to be held for only a few hours after frying so assuming they were following standards yours was probably made that day but at about 11:00am — when they would have been transitioning from breakfast to lunch.

  3. Don’t believe it for even one second. They’re absolutely loaded with sugar, and there is no way it would last for even a couple of weeks without going moldy, unless it was carefully dehydrated first. (And at regular intervals, because the amount of sugar would surely cause it to suck moisture out of the atmosphere).

    I’m calling hoax on this.

  4. Shane, not consuming the pie was life-saving, obviously, but you DID touch it. You could be a carrier. The repeated years of handling and exposure might even have turned you into some sort of preservative mutant. Dr. Preservo. Captain Pie. The Amazing McDoorstop. With great power comes great responsibility; don’t touch my sandwich.

    You may be aware that McDonalds sits in the eye of a minimum wage shitstorm here in the states, recently causing massive walkouts and picketing. Yesterday, I noticed the California King-sized bedsheet of an American flag flying at half mast at the McDonalds next to our local health food store. (Yeah, next to.) I walked into the grocery store, and with no measure of irony whatsoever, asked a friend,

    “Is the flag at Micky D’s flying at half mast because of Nelson Mandela or because of the strikes?”

  5. keep the pie – do not give it away – this is a growing story that had not reached maturity yet. Also, thanks for the wake-up call about the quality of fast food – need to hear that again and again because it is all took easy to go through the drive-through.

  6. That pie is older then I am…you should put it up for sale some day, just to see how much it would go for. I’d definitely put an offer on the table…and just because it’d have an awesome backstory

  7. This is a vintage pie… should be kept for generations to see. The next time i feel like visiting a McD i will remember this blog.
    as for the dehydration of the pie, even that wouldn’t make the pie last this long. Something is definitely wrong with this pie.
    would like to reblog it with your permission

  8. Is this actually for real? What are they using to make it? Plastic and cardboard? Food doesn’t last a day let alone 25yrs! Thanks for reminding me not to go near macdonalds again!

  9. Well I HAD prided myself on the fact I had stopped eating this junk 8 months ago except for the occasional apple pie on the late night drive home when I was designated driver and had a car full of rowdy drunks demanding their greasy prehangover meal… There goes that idea, no more!

  10. I believe such a pie was found in King Tuts sarcophagi. There is a hieroglyph of the golden arches painted on the wall of his tomb. 25 years is but a drop in the bucket of time when it comes to fast food—-I think we’d all be better off to “fast” from eating fast food. Great post and I really enjoyed your style and use of language.

  11. I “ate” that blog entry up :p. I thoroughly enjoyed reading that and cannot wait to see it be publicized. Good work! I’ll be looking out for you on the news!

  12. Interesting read. Though I am the kind to want to test things out and research myself before I take anyone’s word, especially with no real links to those “studies” or the outcomes thereof. There are just too many McDonald’s haters who for some reason or another want to bring them down or pretty much any corporate giant. Not saying you are one of those people, just stating the facts that those people exist.

    And for the record, I don’t eat at McDonalds.

  13. Isn’t the pie coated in a protective layer for fry grease, much like the French fries? I wonder what’s going on inside. Hace you considered dissecting it? Perhaps a non-destructive MRI scan?

  14. I do understand how serious this is, and I completely see how important this is, but you wrote it so well I honestly felt like I was being told this incredible fairy tale….is that weird? I feel like that’s completely besides the point lol great post!

  15. I’m inclined to believe this…Just think what the effect of this type of food has on our bodies! Backintheday even fast-food was healthier than what it is now..That much I believe..Too many short cuts taken these days, in everything! Microwave age sucks! Nothing beats home cooked food; least then WE know what is in it; and whats been done to it..I try hard not to think of things folks/cooks do to food in even 5 star restaurants..WE never really know! But we do know fast food isn’t good for us..Re-blog for sure to spread the word!

  16. and sometime in the far, far future, aliens will uncover these strange apple aroma’d bricks, and marvel at the culture that created such long lasting building materials….

  17. I have actually wondered if a nuclear war hits, would McDonald’s food survive? I had this thought after tossing an opened bag of their “apples” that my son had no eaten. They didn’t even have the slightest tinge of brown, and they felt pretty solid.

  18. I have to share this, your story needs to be heard! The way you wrote the letter was so diplomatic, I can’t believe no one has even tried to contact you! So shocking. Whilst no one expects much (if anything at all) from a franchise such as MacDonalds, it still poses the question ‘Do we ever really know what we are eating?’

  19. wow! this is quite the shocker. I had stopped having mcdonalds a while back since I kind of got a little weary of the taste itself of the products. They had a certain artificial taste to them which was a little disconcerting. This is quite eye opening

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