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GUY RAZ, host:

Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Sixteen years ago, a still youthful Bill Clinton was in his first term, the Republican revolution was about to begin under House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Israel signed a peace treaty with Jordan and then there was this.

(Soundbite of McDonalds ad)

Unidentified Man: It's McRib time at McDonalds, real pork and a sassy sauce. Add fries and a Coke and you're talking chomp, but only for a limited time.

RAZ: 1994 was the last time McDonalds offered its McRib sandwich all across America. And this past week, the company announced that on November 2nd, the McRib is coming back nationwide - the pork patty shaped like a rib and slathered in barbeque sauce and onions. And the news has taken the blogosphere and Facebook and Twitter by storm.

Mr. RYAN DIXON: My name is Ryan Dixon, and I am a McRib enthusiast.

RAZ: Ryan is also a blogger who lives in Burbank, California. Now, over the years, McDonalds has offered the McRib in seemingly random places and for a limited time. And a few years ago, Ryan Dixon drove 10 hours from Burbank to Medford, Oregon after he heard of a McRib sighting at a local McDonalds there.

Mr. DIXON: One of the major reasons for me why the McRib is the greatest fast food item of all time is it's a sort of our only example of a crypto food. It's a sort of culinary cousin of a Sasquatch or a Loch Ness Monster, a chupacabra, and in the same way that why I think those creatures are fascinating, they're sort of the ephemeral mystery of them.

You hear about a Bigfoot sighting, and by the time you get there, Bigfoot has already disappeared, or the people who were about to take the picture of the UFO, it has flown off. It's the same way with the McRib.

RAZ: Now, McRib was taken off of McDonald's permanent menu back in the 1980s. It was never a big commercial success, but it inspires a kind of devotion among a hardcore group of followers unlike any other fast food. It's even made an appearance on the Simpsons where a McRib-like sandwich was offered in Springfield also for a limited time.

(Soundbite of TV show, "The Simpsons")

Unidentified Man (Actor): (As Ribhead) If you still want the Ribwich, they're testing it in other markets. Check out the tour schedule.

Mr. DAN CASTELLANETA (Actor): (As Homer Simpson): Oh, this is amazing. I could follow the Ribwich from town to town.

Unidentified Man: (As Ribhead) That's what we do. We're Ribheads.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CASTELLANETA: (As Home Simpson): Maybe I should hook up with you guys. After all, how long do any of us have to live?

Unidentified Man: (As Ribhead) Well, if you like the Ribwich, not very.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. CASTELLANETA: (As Homer Simpson) No.

RAZ: Now, there are real McRibheads who do track McRib sightings and they do it with the help of this man.

Mr. ALAN KLEIN (McRiblocator.com): My name is Alan Klein and I run the McRib Locator at McRiblocator.com.

RAZ: And what, you ask, is the McRib Locator?

Mr. KLEIN: The McRib Locator is a place where any lover of the McRib can come in and look to see where there's a recent sighting, or if they have had one themselves, they can cite that in and let everyone else know that likes McRibs where they could find one at.

RAZ: Alan Klein's actually a trained meteorologist and he realized that he could track McRibs much in the same way he tracks storms. And like Ryan Dixon, Alan's driven as far as four hours just to eat one. His wife loves them too. He says when he was courting her, they bonded over that shared love.

Mr. KLEIN: My earliest McRib, when I think back, is probably back when I grew up on a hog farm out near Mission, South Dakota. My dad and I took some hogs into town for sale, and after that, there in winter South Dakota, we went into the McDonalds there and there was the McRib. It was almost as if we were supporting ourselves by buying a pork product.

RAZ: There are something like 300 McRib fan sites on Facebook and one that even demands McDonalds bring it back to its permanent menu.

Mr. DIXON: It's a sort of holy relic of the time, meaning the late '70s, early '80s, when we celebrated the fakeness of food. You know, now, everyone are sort of devotees of the, like, the Michael Pollan cabal. But back then, it was like the more fake a food could be, the more popular it was.

I think of like the Country Time Lemonade commercials where the grandfather sips the Country Time and says, mmm, tastes like real lemonade. And in that same way, the McRib, you know, it's not made of rib, the bones in it look more like French toast pieces, and it's fully constructed to represent something that none of the parts that go into make it have any relation to its reality.

RAZ: That's Ryan Dixon from Burbank, California. He and Alan Klein both plan to line up early outside their local McDonalds on November 2nd for those fresh McRibs hot off the griddle.

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