Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people.
Every once in a while, in history, an event happens that is so heinous, and so unjust that people riot in the streets, and cry for revolution. Like, for instance, imagine if McDonald’s were to promise a certain famous chicken dipping sauce and then…Not. Deliver. Imagine the battle cries that would be sung out as the people rose up, and burned every last McDonald’s to the ground. Or at least… the Twitter cries. But like, still… with actual riots.
It all started with the TV show, Rick and Morty, as most revolutions do. They say that the American Revolution was based on season one of Rick and Morty. At least, that’s the legend, and also, it’s written into several paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. It’s truly a cult TV show. When people say a “cult” TV show, they generally mean it facetiously. Not so, with Rick and Morty. Those fans would drink the Szechuan flavored Koolaid any time, any place.
The origin of the fans’ obsession with the McDonald’s dipping sauce began in season three when Rick broke into a feverish, unhinged monologue in which he revealed that a limited release Szechuan dipping sauce (that McDonald’s made in 1998 in conjunction with the Disney movie, Mulan) is his character’s entire motivation.
Fans began begging McDonald’s to rerelease the sauce so they could try it themselves. Because how could they not want to try the sauce that was both “f**king amazing” and also, promoting a movie? McDonald’s joined in on the fun, and, after teasing everybody by sending an awfully cute letter to the Rick and Morty creators that included a whole bottle of the Szechuan sauce, McDonald’s decided to release the sauce as a promotion for fans in October.
Except…they did so in comically low numbers, 20-40 packets in just a few stores. The people who had literally driven hours, and stood in line since 4am, only to be told that only a handful of packets ever existed, were….unhappy, to say the least. Police-had-to-be-brought-in levels of unhappy. And riots aside, people went crazy for the sauce financially too. Packets were sold online for hundreds of dollars, one bottle was bought for several thousand, and another was TRADED FOR A CAR.
I get it. When you want a food thing, You. Should. Get. It. Once I went to a food truck for an egg sandwich and they were out of eggs and I cried. This is a normal feeling people have when they don’t get food and totally not a symptom of larger issues manifesting during smaller dissapointments.
Anyway, McDonald’s felt really bad about the whole thing, and by “really bad” I mean the executives paraded whomever had thought it would be funny to run a promotion that would create a frenzy while offering too little product around the office on their shoulders because it led to a ton of free press and buzz for the next time. Then they promised the public that they would re-rerelease the sauce this winter.
And GOOD NEWS, STARKS, Winter has come.
I’ve never seen Rick and Morty, but I love standing in extremely long lines because I think it leads to unlikely friendships. So I figured I should head down to McDonald’s to try the sauce when it premiered this Monday.
I walked down to my local McDonald’s anticipating a “Mc” flurry of people clamoring for the sauce, but to my surprise, it was dead there. It was like I had just arrived at a beanie baby convention but one, you know, that was happening in 2016 (and not in the year of our Szechuan lord, 1998, a year in which I was offered thousands of dollars for one of my beanie babies and turned it down because “I love him”).
No matter. So it was dead! Perhaps the mass of people I had expected had just left! Or maybe the first time it was all fake! An invented story by CNN. Like maybe the hordes of people were paid crisis, excuse me, I mean, “sauce” actors hired by the government. Because that’s totally a thing that happens all the time.
I’ve talked before about the weird vibe in my local McDonald’s, but every time I go there, something is off. They’re perfectly nice, but it feels sterile and awkward. When I go into that McDonald’s (which I’ve never been in except to try fast food for Uproxx AND THAT IS OFTEN), I wonder if I’m in some sort of Truman Show scenario in which everyone literally just finished tacking up the drywall as I arrived. In this case, three people seemed to be in line, but then as I went to stand behind them, they moved to the side, out of my way, as if choreographed to propel me towards the cashier. I went to the counter.
“Do you have the Szechuan sauce?” I asked.
“No,” the woman behind the counter said nervously as if she expected me to throw something. “We’re getting it tomorrow? Or, um, Thursday,” she said.
“Which one is it?” I said, pulling out the several bottles of Orange chicken sauce from Panda Express that I keep in my purse, and sauce-boarding her with the stuff until she gave me an answer.
“Thursday,” she said in a way that didn’t inspire confidence. It was a disappointment. Apparently, not every McDonald’s received the Szechuan sauce at the same time.
I thought my journey was about to end right there, but luckily (I realized brilliantly), there is more than one McDonald’s in the city of Los Angeles. So, I headed to one 1.4 miles away. At this McDonald’s there was a short line, but I couldn’t be sure if it was because of the sauce or if that was just the normal lunch rush. Still, it was a line! I was happy to stand in anything that would allow me to avoid doing any real work, and this was a very helpful step towards that goal.
However, not everyone there was happy with the wait. The man behind me became increasingly agitated. Like, I said, THIS IS A STORY OF REVOLUTION. And “man behind me” decided he must speak for the people. Every movement needs an inspiring front man.
“Oh my GOD,” he yelled tossing his hands up as the woman at the counter asked if she could add lettuce to her sandwich. “DEAR GOD,” he yelled at no one in particular. We all thought it, he was just brave enough to scream it out. WHY DO WE EVER HAVE TO WAIT FOR ANYTHING, IT’S SO UNFAIR UGHHHHHHH.
Finally, it was time for me to order. I got some chicken tenders and asked for a Szechuan sauce.
“Are you getting a lot of people in ordering this today,” I said to the cashier with a knowing smile, ready to share a moment of commiserating about the craziness of it all. Ready to talk about how food, our most basic of needs, is now driven by viral trends.
“No,” she said. “Next CUSTOMER.”
I finally received the sauce after my perilous journey, having fought off and pushed my way past absolutely no one, and I was both excited and nervous. Would the sauce live up to the hype?
McDonald’s Szechuan sauce not SUPER appetizing in color. It’s sort of a tarry, dark liquid. Opening it up, I was nervous. This did not look like it was going be one of those “work didn’t make me eat something that made me sick today” days.
It had the scent of an uncooked stir fry sauce. Sweet, but just a little bit raw. I was intrigued. I had been nervous, but now I was like, “Yeah, okay, I could see marinating a chicken in that.”
It’s very sweet, just teetering on the edge of too sweet. But it has just enough of a hint of garlic and ginger to balance it out. I liked it, but I would have liked it more if it had been a bit spicy. It was almost aggressively not spicy. Like they’d leached it out for being too delicious. So it was just all sugar. Though, the sesame oil in it made it taste just vaguely enough like an Asian sauce.
It’s there, but…barely.
The Mulan Szechuan sauce is good! Definitely better than sweet and sour sauce, though, maybe not as magical as I imagined it would be. It works well on the chicken strips, but not particularly good on fries. I think it would be improved with a little kick, but I also get why they would be nervous to make it too spicy.
I’m a fan, though other people who have tried it have mixed opinions. Some feel it’s overrated and bland, others that it’s good but not worth rioting over, (which is my favorite statement ever because it implies that there are, out there, some sauces worth rioting for).
But who’s to say what’s worth rioting. Not me. I think we should all riot whenever we feel like it, turn over cars, throw bricks through windows whatever. Especially because of sauce. Like the Les Mis song says, “Do you hear the people sing, singing of Szechuan sauce and tyranny?”
I do hear them. And so, in the spirit of revolution, I’ll sally forth to my local McDonald’s, barricade myself in the bathroom, and fight until they get us the sauce we were promised. That’s what Rick and Morty would want. Probably. I assume. Maybe But again, I’ve never seen the show. Just a fan of the sauce. A normal adult person who loves Mulan movie tie in food items.