If you want to learn about someplace, you can always pick up a textbook. But if you want to get to know a place, you're going to have to dig a little deeper. And what you find there might be a little strange. The Strange States series will take you on a virtual tour of America to uncover the unusual people, places, things, and events that make this country such a unique place to call home. This week we’re heading to Pennsylvania, home of the National Lacrosse League’s Philadelphia Wings, the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League, and Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union, among other sports teams.
THE BIG MAC MUSEUM
Despite what you might have heard earlier this year, McDonald’s has no plans to discontinue their signature menu item, the Big Mac. First introduced in 1967 by one of the earliest McDonald’s franchisees, Jim Delligatti, at his Uniontown, Penn. restaurant, the combination of (say it with me now) “two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun” became an instant hit, and was added to the standard McDonald’s menu in 1968. Today, McDonald’s sells around 2.5 million Big Macs every day in over 35 countries around the world.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of this most-American of meals, Delligatti opened a most-American attraction, The Big Mac Museum, in North Huntingdon, Penn. in 2007.
Inside a fully-operational McDonald’s restaurant just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, you’ll find display cases filled with Big Mac-orabilia. A timeline breaks down the invention of the burger—which Delligatti created after his adult customers asked for a bigger burger made just for them—as well as its successful spread from Pennsylvania to become a worldwide phenomenon. The evolution of the Big Mac packaging is on display, from its earth-unfriendly styrofoam container to its greener paper wrapper, as well as a Big Mac Sauce caulking gun used to squirt on the signature condiment. There are newspaper flyers and promotional photos from around the world, and even a few bobbleheads—including none other than the living embodiment of the burger, Ronald McDonald’s friend, Officer Big Mac.
But no stop at the Big Mac Museum is complete without getting your picture taken by the two statues you’ll find: The first is a bronze replica of Jim Delligatti holding his iconic invention; the other, and arguably the more famous (Sorry, Jim), is the largest Big Mac in the world, spanning 12-feet across and over 14-feet tall.
Because I’m a great big nerd, I couldn’t just end this article without figuring out how bad the Big Mac statue would be for you if it was real. So, taking the average size of a Big Mac as 3.75 inches wide by 2.75 inches high, I’m going to round that to 4 inches by 3 inches to make the calculations a little easier because I’m an English major. I plugged the numbers into EngineeringToolBox.com’s “Smaller Circles in Larger Circles” tool, and came up with 1007 Big Macs spread out across the 12-foot/144-inch diameter of the statue (while it gives lots of gaps, the statue is also domed on top, so these should cancel out). At 14 feet/168 inches tall, the statue is 56 Big Macs in height, making a total of 56,392 Big Macs contained within the statue’s bulk. Using McDonald’s latest nutritional guide, you’re talking a gut-busting 26,081-pound burger (7.4 ounces each) with a staggering 29,887,760 calories (530 calories each), an artery-choking 1,522,584 grams of fat (27 grams each), and a small ocean-full of 54,136,320 milligrams of sodium (960 milligrams each). Using the Big Mac Economic Index invented by The Economist in 1986, the burger would cost $270,117 ($4.79 average price as of January 2015). Luckily, at the recommended daily intake of about 2000 calories per day, you could dine on this giant Big Mac for about 14,944 days, or just under 41 years if you include leap years. If you spread out your payments, you’re only spending $6600 per year on food. What a bargain!
Have the scoop on an unusual person, place or event in your state? Tell me about it on Twitter (@spacemonkeyx) and maybe I’ll include it in a future edition of Strange States!
Peruse the whole Strange States series here.