- Malcolm Gladwell explored why McDonald’s fries don’t taste the same as when he was a kid.
- McDonald’s changed the way it cooked its fries in 1992.
- It swapped beer tallow for vegetable oil when frying french fries.
Famed author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell remembers the first time he discovered McDonald’s fries.
“Have you ever seen a puppy encounter snow before?” he asked on an episode of his podcast “Revisionist History.” “It was like that for me. A slice of potato, crispy on the outside, yet somehow pillowy soft on the inside. Right then and there I gave my heart to McDonald’s.”
Unfortunately for Gladwell, this love story doesn’t have a happy ending.
Gladwell asserts that McDonald’s broke his heart and betrayed him by changing the way its fries taste, and he embarked on a mission to find out what happened.
He discovered that in 1992, McDonald’s changed the way it made its fries. He explained:
“They went from frying them in beef tallow to frying them in some combination of vegetable oil. And as you dig into this, what you realise is that that is not an inconsequential move. It’s not like when you’re frying an egg where it doesn’t really matter what you fry it in. A fried egg is a fried egg. A french fry is a combination of a potato and some kind of cooking element. The thing you fry it in becomes a constituent part of the fry.”
Around that time, Gladwell said there was hysteria around saturated fat and McDonald’s thought its business model would be doomed unless it was able to some how make its products seem healthier. But on this note, Gladwell said it was also wrong.
“It turns out to be false that vegetable oil is healthier for you than beef tallow,” he said. “So not only did they destroy the french fry, they gave us something that was worse for us from a health perspective. So everything about it was a mistake.”
And he hopes McDonald’s admits its wrongs and changes the frying recipe back to the original.
“If they had any balls at all, they would turn around and say, ‘We were wrong, and we’re going back to fries the old way,'” he said.
Your move, McDonald’s.
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