Watch it sit in a jar on a webcam. Because internet.
Source: Popular Mechanics
You may have missed it yesterday, but Iceland celebrated a strange anniversary: Ten years ago, Hjörtur Smárason walked into the country’s last McDonald’s restaurant shortly before it closed and ordered a hamburger and french fries.
Today, the exceptionally preserved patty and its accompanying red carton of fries are sitting beneath a bell jar, under the watchful eye of a camera, which has live-streamed its decay (or lack thereof) for several years. It is—to our knowledge—Iceland’s sole surviving McDonalds hamburger meal.
“I had heard something about McDonald’s never decaying, so I just wanted to find out for myself whether this was true or not,” Smárason, who gave the hamburger to the National Museum of Iceland in 2012, told the Snotra House in Þykkvibær, South Iceland, where the burger is currently on display.
The National Museum of Iceland cared for the burger for several years before giving it up, Smárason recalled. (According to museum staff, several guests tempted fate by sneaking tastes of the stale fries.) When the museum approached Smárason about tossing his donation, he protested and instead took his burger to the Bus Hostel in Skógarhlíð, Reykjavík, where it was also put on display and live-streamed. Eventually, the hearty hamburger landed at Snotra House.
Of course, this isn’t the first time a McDonald’s burger’s mettle has been tested. Other experiments have shown that the hardy hamburger holds up well against the test of time.
Two teenagers in Adelaide, Australia, purchased a cheeseburger in 1995 and kept it over the years, Buzzfeed reported in 2015. At the time, the publication claimed it was likely the oldest McDonald’s cheeseburger in existence. In 2013, Gawker wrote about a Utah man named David Whipple who purchased a hamburger from the restaurant chain in 1999. It, too, aged well.
So why do McDonald’s burgers live forever? And what exactly is the allure of bearing witness to their permanence?
Some claim the burgers are laden with preservatives, which unnaturally lengthen their lifespan. Others—like the chain itself—claim the burgers’ immaculate condition can only be blamed on their final resting place. Were the patties stored in a moist environment, microbes likely would have colonized the burgers and kickstarted their decomposition.
On February 11, 2013, in response to the press coverage of Whipple’s pristine patty, Ronald McDonald himself released a statement attempting to clear the air:
“Without sufficient moisture—either in the food itself or the environment—bacteria and mold may not grow and therefore, decomposition is unlikely.” a McDonald’s spokesperson said in a press release. “Look closely, the burgers you are seeing are likely dried out and dehydrated, and by no means ‘the same as the day they were purchased.’”
Popular Mechanics has reached out to several food scientists and will update the story as necessary. Like you, we need a beefier explanation.
We’ll be the first to admit there’s something grotesque and compelling about watching a cheeseburger wither away at a glacial pace. (Note: Iceland held a funeral earlier this year for an actual glacier.) Perhaps it’s nostalgia. Perhaps it’s the realization that even after we’re long gone, these burgers may live on as a culinary gravestone, if you will, marking our collective obsession with affordability, ease, and comfort.
Whatever it is, we’re lovin’ it.
Source: Popular Mechanics