Pie In the Sky

I was fooling myself when I thought I could simply post a story about the anniversary of my aged apple pie and move on to the next bit of grim, gallow-humoured business here at Eyestrain Productions. It seems that at least one follow-up will be necessary to address some of the comments, backlash and statistics that have come out of this global unveiling. Questions have been posed, figures have been requested, and answers must be forthcoming.

I’ve never really seen anything go viral first hand – except maybe my tonsils when I had mononucleosis. I have to say, it’s an unnerving, frightening sight. What started as a simple Facebook update at nine in the morning last Thursday exploded into an all-time high of visitors and views by the end of the day. The numbers didn’t just beat out the time I mentioned Rob Ford on the blog (people can’t get enough of him, and there’s so much to go around), they shattered the record. This is what a disgusting story about fast food will get you in the blogosphere. It almost makes holding onto a McDonald’s apple pie for twenty-five years seems like a worthwhile endeavour. And not crazy.

Rob-Ford day is the blip on the left, dwarfed by the outing of The Pie a couple of weeks later.

Rob-Ford day is the blip on the left, dwarfed by the outing of The Pie a couple of weeks later.

After the first couple of days of Facebook mania, there was a bit of a drop off. The post, McApple Pie of My Eye, was earmarked for mention on WordPress’ Freshly Pressed, but there was a delay when a timely bit of news was held static at the top of the page for a day, blocking the cycle of new inclusions. Despite Nelson Mandela’s attempt to steal my thunder, my apple pie finally usurped him and the hits kept coming. Yeah yeah, I know. You ended apartheid and ushered South Africa into a new era of democratic reform without resorting to violence or retribution, thereby becoming a shining beacon of peaceful transition from tyranny to freedom and all. But do you have a twenty-five-year-old McDonald’s apple pie? No, you DO NOT! Checkmate, sir.

As of this writing, the post has had 6888 views since it first went up, with some of the visitors actually bothering to read other content on the site as well. Thanks to the stat features on WordPress, I’ve been better able to track the numbers and where the visitors are coming from. It was with some measure of geographically geeky delight that I got to watch much of the world map fill in, and witness some strange anomalies. I can’t even guess why I have more views from Singapore than the entire U.K. combined, but I’m at least pleased to be able to exclaim: Welcome single Negara Brunei Darussalam visitor! I’m glad you stopped by because, honestly, I don’t see your neck of the woods coming up in my vacation roster any time soon.

Greenland has provoked my ire by being the largest piece of unfilled real estate. Surely somebody there has Wi-Fi and a Facebook account.

Greenland has provoked my ire by being the largest piece of unfilled real estate. Surely somebody there has Wi-Fi and a Facebook account.

The reaction to the contents of the article were pretty universally a horrified, “Gah!” Such was the sentiment from the hosts of a Radio Canada show that picked up the story, showing my blog and mentioning my mispronounced name on air. Some skepticism was expressed by people who wisely don’t take everything they read on the internet at face value. I was only outright accused of perpetrating a hoax once. I’m all for healthy skepticism, but it’s not the Kennedy assassination. It’s a pie. All I can offer you is my personal assurance of the factuality of the post. If that’s not good enough for you…oh, well. I guess we’ll both just have to deal with it.

Speaking of the facts, “maplesuger” was good enough to point out the true meaning of the ballpoint-pen “12” on the packaging based on a personal McDonald’s slave-wage experience. My speculation was wrong, it does in fact mean “12 o’clock.” It’s interesting that the pie turnover rate was so quick, given its now-obvious epic shelf life. Ah, the illusion of freshness.

Links to the current McDonald’s pie list of ingredients were offered, and swiftly countered by others who pointed out that fast food recipes get changed all the time. This is certainly true. Even Coca-Cola has altered their formula several times over the years, despite the perception that their recipe is written in stone. The New Coke debacle of 1985 illustrates that clearly enough, although other tweaks have been made at various points in the company’s history, like the ones that happened in 1935 designed to make Coke kosher. No, seriously, they did that. Then, of course, there was the earlier bold decision to drop cocaine from the recipe in favour of the less-robust jump-starter, caffeine. I have no doubt McDonald’s has similarly fiddled with all their menu items in the last quarter century. Some may have been made more food-esque, others less so. We may never know the precise details.

Whether it’s cola or burgers or simulated apple pies, my attitude is the same as when it comes to smoking. If you’re still consuming that shit after all the “Don’t touch it, it’s poison!” warnings, anything I write here is unlikely to change your habits. Witness one friend who wrote back to inform me that even after my post made the rounds and circulated all through her office, two of her colleagues still had McDonald’s for lunch. I shudder to think my little essay may have even inspired the craving.

My favourite bit of criticism came from the guy I call the You-Don’t-Know-Science dude. I suppose that accusation is fair. If I get up in the morning and gravity still works, I assume there’s a qualified Ph.D. doing their job correctly at some high-tech gravity factory somewhere. I don’t really think about it much, although my techie friends sure do. I should note that none of the coders and programmers, biologists and geneticists, robotics engineers and theoretical physicists I know (okay, I don’t actually know any qualified theoretical physicists, but I’m slated to have brunch with one this weekend) took issue with what I had to say. Some of them were even in the restaurant with me when the pie was first purchased in 1988 and can vouch for the entire story.

As someone who has been known to occasionally eat food, I have plenty of anecdotal evidence that this is not how food behaves. This is more how something like, say, a brick, or a lug nut, or a novelty coffee cup behaves over the course of a quarter century when left unattended. Nothing much happens. My narrow understanding of science extends far enough to dictate that a warm, moist, fresh apple pie should have turned into a Petri dish, swimming with bacteria, within a reasonable amount of time, provided there were actual nutrients present to interest them. There weren’t.

I’ll let the post mortem rest there. Unless further media attention surfaces (and well it may, the off-line media are notoriously slow on the uptake), the apple pie will return to its place of dishonour in my stationery closet until the next major anniversary. A blog post about pie of another kind will be forthcoming shortly. It can’t possibly hope to get the same number of hits, but with luck it will turn the stomachs of what readers it draws in just as timely and nauseating a fashion.

2 thoughts on “Pie In the Sky

  1. I really am surprised that there wasn’t even apple in there. I have felt this for a while that the apple pie and fries used to taste amazingly good. And my guess is that, at some point, they must have changed from deep fat frying in partially hydrogenated animal fat, to frying in the vegetable kind. The last time I had a McD Apple Pie was about 2 years ago, and it was just horrible. I would love to see the Science of McD Apple Pie crop up somewhere to give your story a back up, at least scientifically. Informative stuff, and even better reason not to eat it!

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