Belated congratulations are in order for Irwindale, Calif. -- although I do question what it is they order. In 1998, they were officially recognized as the city in the United States that consumes the most Big Macs per capita.
I found this little McNugget of information in the lower left-hand corner of a very old USA Today in their daily feature, Snapshots. I had clipped it out 15 years ago thinking it might be an idea for a story. I've been busy, okay?
It's this educational portion of the paper where I first learned many things: that people are more apt to read than play video games while in the john, that most highway drivers fill up on gas when the tank is down to one quarter, and that 60 percent of Americans eat creamy smooth (not chunky) peanut butter once a week.
You may scoff at this as a source of legitimate information, but up until the Internet came along I depended on these tidbits to arm me with snappy dialogue, thus ensuring as many cocktail party invitations as possible. Before USA Today, I gleaned data from restaurant placemats and patter from some of TV's great intellects like George Goebel and Paul Lynde on Hollywood Squares. Quincy was a big help with medical chit chat.
The fast-food honor accorded to this tiny town of 11,000 was not based on total Big Macs consumed, but rather the average number a carnivore in Irwindale polished off in a year--a whopping 337 it turns out--or about 4/5 of a Big Mac each day. This shows great willpower at the end of the meal and also results in a lot of disgusting car ashtrays.
Hungry patrons ordered Big Macs at the Irwindale drive-thru over 20,000 times in 1998, but Burger King executives are skeptical, claiming that at least half the time the order probably got screwed up and customers drove away with a fish sandwich and a chocolate parfait. One McExecutive further explained the huge per capita number by noting that it also includes the thousands of interstate travelers who "rolled into town and then rolled out." He later regretted use of the term "rolled."
Meanwhile, the mayor of Irwindale was so happy, he was beside himself, which is what it sometimes looks like when you eat too many Big Macs. The mayor noted that this was a great day for his city. "In many ways Irwindale looks like a cross-section of America," he beamed. I think he meant midsection. One more piece of data: The population density of Irwindale was 155.7 inhabitants per square mile, but that was the 1990 Census. By the year 2000, they could barely squeeze in 140.
Also in the running was a small city in Maryland whose residents racked up a mere 137 Big Macs per year, per person. The beefy mayor of Spencer felt personally responsible for his city's second-place finish. "I don't know where I fell down," said the mayor. We're guessing it wasn't at LA Fitness.
I have not been able to find an update on this story. Apparently, no city has surpassed this 1998 milestone, and McDonald's has opted to wait until this record is topped before crowning a new champ. Other cities want their 15 grams of fat fame, but there are demands by weight-conscious consumers for healthier choices on the menu.
Leave it to McDonald's to brilliantly deal with this conundrum by arming its staff with an appropriate message at the counter: "Yes, we have the new delicious low-cal, low-fat chicken fiesta salad. Would you like a Big Mac with that?"