March 27, 2008

Herb Peterson R.I.P.

Herb Peterson, who invented the ubiquitous Egg McMuffin as a way to introduce breakfast to McDonald's restaurants, has died, a Southern California McDonald's official said Wednesday. He was 89. Courant story here

Personally, I've bit of experience with the Egg McMuffin. I worked at McD's in high school and co. llege - circa 1977 through 1981. So I've cooked my share of Egg McMuffins. This was back in the day before breakfast sandwich upstarts: bagels, croissants and biscuits, sausage and scrambled eggs. The Egg McMuffin is for purists - a fried egg, a slice of canadian bacon and cheese, and an english muffin.

The secret to the sandwich is the teflon coated ring which keeps the egg in place while it cooks and gives it the unnatural (but oh so packageable) round shape. Mr. Peterson is pictured above with one version of this; I recall a six-pack style metal rack with removable egg rings in them. You'd dab in butter with a brush, break the eggs into the rings, then crack the yolks. I think we covered them to cook, and heated up the bacon to the side. I remember cleaning these egg rings at the end of the morning shift, as the restaurant changed over to lunch.

No idea if McD's still cooks 'em this way. I've been able to simulate the Egg McMuffin at home - using a small pyrex bowel. I spritz in a little cooking spray, put an egg in, break the yolk, and zap it on high for 30-45 seconds. The egg cooks up nicely and slips out of the pyrex bowl, perfectly round and ready for a muffin.

McDonald's (rightfully) gets a lot of crap for being a corporate villian - related to consumer health, marketing to kids, rainforest destruction, and waste generating. But I've always admired the inventiveness and marketing savvy of those who worked for Uncle Ray, and think that the planet would be a better place if we could redirect some of that creativity towards things like energy conservation, sustainable living, etc.

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