There was a time, long long ago, when you had to sit down to eat breakfast. A time when eggs were free-form; when the midnight diner was your only option for stale coffee and undercooked home fries; when 10:30am was just as good as 10:40am. But alas, that all went away when the Egg McMuffin was invented at the intersection of State Street and Calle Real in Santa Barbara
For years, Ray Kroc had been trying to devise a plan to get people in the doors of McDonald’s during the morning hours. Try as he might, Kroc couldn’t figure out how to compete with cereal, toast, and muffins–all relatively fast foods that can be eaten right at home. Then one day Herb Peterson, a McDonald’s franchise owner in Santa Barbara, called Kroc and demanded he come by one of his locations to try something he made: a hockey puck-shaped sandwich filled with a poached egg, a slice of American cheese, and a circle of Canadian bacon, all on a toasted English muffin. Kroc ate one sandwich. Then a second. And then a third. Within two months, McDonald’s was offering America’s first quick-service breakfast nationwide, centered around this glorious handheld eggs Benedict sandwich.
Today the Egg McMuffin doesn’t sound like much of an innovation. But 40 years ago, it wasn’t so commonplace. At the time, English Muffins were only available at fancy restaurants for brunch, almost always served as the base for eggs Benedict. Canadian bacon (which is pork loin that is cured and smoked) was not well known. And the teflon ring mold that is used to hold the egg’s shape during cooking had to be custom made. Add the use of American cheese to mimic the texture of Hollandaise, and you’ve got a pretty ingenious sandwich. After all these years, while the rest of McDonald’s offerings have been altered with different (read: nastier) ingredients, and have increased in serving size dramatically, the Egg McMuffin has remained almost exactly the same; in fact it can still fit into its original wrapper and is still 300 calories.
Much to the chagrin of late risers, McDonald’s stops selling McMuffins after 10:30 am. The restaurant chain claims it’s logistically impossible to serve breakfast and lunch at the same time…guess they didn’t get the news flash that brunch is sort of a thing these days. But nonetheless, if you hit the sweet spot–between about 10:25 and 10:35–you can order off both menus and have a Mc10:35–an English muffin with an egg, ham, burger patty, special sauce, and a pickle. Heaven on earth? Ehhhh, maybe just a shortcut to your deathbed.