Bun in a million: Big Mac hits 40

NORMALLY, a 40-year-old sandwich would be something to be avoided.

Unless you’re one of millions who flock to McDonald’s each year to chow down a Big Mac.

The triple-decker burger, which helped breed America’s super-size culture is turning 40. For some, that’s cause for celebration.

“The flavours that come together — it’s like heaven in your mouth,” said April Kohlhaas, a 31-year-old Chicago resident. “It’s just tradition, like American comfort food.”

The Big Mac was first introduced in 1967 by Jim Delligatti, a McDonald’s franchise owner in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. A year later, it became a staple of McDonald’s menus in America.

To celebrate the burger’s anniversary, Delligatti, 89, and his family opened a Big Mac Museum Restaurant this week in North Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, full of memorabilia, celebratory exhibits and “the world’s largest Big Mac statue”.

“The Big Mac is certainly one of our most popular sandwiches,” said spokesperson Danya Proud. “There is only one Big Mac.”

McDonald’s estimates that 550 million Big Macs are sold each year in the US alone — that’s about 17 per second.

“When it was eaten once in a while there wasn’t anything wrong with it,” said Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. “It was just fast food, something fun. But then it became everyday fare.”

Andrea Hawkins had her first Big Mac in high school and likes the treat so much that she started a “Big Mac-aholics” group on the social networking website Facebook.

Love them or hate them, the Big Mac has grown from its humble beginnings to become a cultural unifier, said pop culture expert and author Rachel Weingarten. “You can live in Beijing or Brooklyn and you can enjoy as your favorite snack a Big Mac attack,” she said.

“Maybe you didn’t grow up watching the same cartoons, maybe you didn’t grow up speaking the same language, but you suddenly have a point of reference — this warm, yummy, bad-for-you, sometimes-naughty thing.”

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