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Hold the Mayo!

From the Mailbag: Another Fast Food Horror Story


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Dear Urban Legends:

I have heard a story doing the rounds and want to know if you think it's based on any fact at all. I must admit it does smell of "urban legend."

It concerns a girl who orders a McChicken Sandwich from McDonald's with no mayonnaise. She then proceeds to leave the restaurant before eating the sandwich, only to discover there is mayonnaise on it. Not too fazed, she finishes it and thinks no more of it.

The next day she is ill with stomach cramps. It gets so bad she is taken to the hospital, where her stomach is duly pumped. The contents of her stomach are then sent to the lab for analysis.

She is later informed that she ingested a cyst belonging to a chicken. She then realises that is was the chicken's cyst which had burst as she bit into her McChicken Sandwich which gave the look of mayonnaise.

True or false?

Dear Reader:

Aw, you already know what I'm going to say: it's false. If you can bring yourself to look really closely at the patty in a McChicken Sandwich -- really get in there and study it -- you'll notice that the chicken meat has a very "processed" look. That's because during production it has been ground up and re-formed into patties. Given that, it's highly doubtful that a cyst, tumor, or anything of the kind would remain intact.

You also have to wonder how plausible it is that during the lab analysis that supposedly took place of the contents of the victim's stomach, technicians would have been able to identify a cyst which had allegedly already burst when chewed and been partially digested.

Practicall matters aside, this is getting to be a pretty familiar tall tale by now. Often the revolting foreign object in the chicken sandwich is said to be an "abscess" (connoting infection) rather than a cyst. Here's a variant takes the middle road, calling the mass a "pus-filled tumor."

A woman went into the McDonald's restaurant in Ayer, Massachusetts one day for lunch and ordered a fried chicken sandwich. Not caring much for mayonnaise, she requested that it be left off the sandwich, along with tomatoes.

After the order was ready and paid for, the woman sat down and unwrapped her sandwich. She took a huge bite, and... wham! There was a huge glob of mayonnaise in her mouth. Annoyed, she brought it up to the cashier who had served her and demanded a new sandwich, citing that she had specifically asked for no tomatoes and no mayo.

Confused, the cashier asked the workers in the back to please fix a sandwich without the dreaded mayonnaise, to which they insisted they had not put any on the first one, and prepared a replacement immediately.

As she was about to take her new mayo-less McChicken Deluxe back to her table, the woman was suddenly overcome with nausea and vomited in several colors, followed by blood, onto the floor. The workers out back then opened the discarded sandwich and found that they indeed had not included mayonnaise, but a chicken patty with a pus-filled tumor.

Barbara Mikkelson, who has tracked this legend for Snopes.com (don't miss her excellent commentary, "Mayo Cynic"), makes the interesting observation that the protagonists of this and similar nausea-inducing tales are always female. The same gender preference shows up in the cockroach-egg taco incidents reported across the U.S. in 1998.

Why always women? Most likely because the time-honored cliche of the lone female embodying "innocent victimhood" is still deeply embedded in American culture. And because, well, you know how squeamish women are.

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