By William Fallon
Recently in the news: a woman trades a packet of McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets sauce for a car, and people line up and camp in front of select McDonald’s like it’s the release of a new iPhone. All this for some sauce?
However, this is no ordinary sauce; this is Szechuan Sauce. In the summer of 1998, McDonald’s released a limited-time condiment: Mulan Szechuan teriyaki dipping sauce, also known as Szechuan Sauce. It was released to promote the Walt Disney movie Mulan, which hit theaters on June 19, 1998. The promotion came with a ten-count McNugget Happy Meal and a special Mulan toy character. After the movie was released and the promotion ended, the sauce was removed from menus and forgotten.
19 years later, on April 1st of this year, Szechuan Sauce made its return on Rick and Morty, an animated comedy meant for adults, which airs on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. The show mentioned the condiment in the season three premiere “The Rickshank Redemption” on that fateful April Fool’s Day. The show’s main character, Rick Sanchez, is a genius alcoholic scientist and is in the universe’s most secure prison. He is forced into a machine which takes him back to 1998, to disclose the information on how he built the portal gun to the Galactic Federation.
While in 1998, he stops at a McDonald’s and buys two ten-piece McNuggets boxes and “as much of the Szechuan sauce as you are allowed to give me.” At the end of the episode, Rick mentions that he will get the sauce back to McDonald’s, no matter how long it takes. The cultural reference in this episode led to a wave of Rick and Morty fans urging McDonald’s to bring Szechuan Sauce back.
On July 29th, Justin Roiland, a co-creator of the show and voice actor for the show’s two protagonists, Rick and Morty, received a package from McDonald’s which contained a four-pound container of the famous Szechuan Sauce. Along with it were a customized suitcase and a letter explaining how they supposedly used a portal to go to “dimension C-1998M,” a dimension where it is always 1998.
Six days prior, McDonald’s had announced that it would release Szechuan Sauce for one day in select locations on October 7th. So a few weeks ago, fans lined up and waited hours just to get their hands on some sauce. However, at each of the select locations, very few packets would be sold, and if fans arrived at 2:00 a.m. the day of, they would receive special vouchers claiming their spot in line and would be able to leave and return in the morning. People eventually ended up waiting over two hours in line only to find that no sauce packets were left.
Here’s a random tweet from an obsessed fan:
Line for Szechuan sauce in SF. 23rd in line and apparently I’m too late. pic.twitter.com/P5ZAHVJsm3
Many disturbances (labeled riots by some) occurred at various McDonald’s locations on Oct. 7, which did not please Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland, co-creators of Rick and Morty. They later distanced themselves from the situation by tweeting:
FYI: We had nothing to do with this McDonald’s stuff. Not happy w/how this was handled. Please be cool to the employees it’s not their fault
— Justin Roiland (@JustinRoiland)
The McDonald’s incident was a success for those who were able to snag some sauce, but a loss for those who were not.
— Ian Sikes (@ianjsikes) October 7, 2017
Youtuber Daym Drops described the sauce as “Sweet and sour with the perfect amount of spice, a spice that will change your life,” and claimed that “Every nugget has been elevated to the next level of tastiness … Szechuan Sauce? Gettin’ a 10, son!” The incident caused a packet of sauce worth ten cents to receive bids of $300 on eBay. A 64 oz. bottle of Szechuan sauce given away in a raffle from McDonald’s was put up for sale on eBay and recently got a bid of $15,000. A woman from Michigan named Rachel Marie managed to trade one packet of sauce for a red 2004 Volkswagen GTI MK4.
After many were unhappy and surprised with the limited supply of sauce, McDonald’s made a statement on Twitter promising the return of the sauce this winter. Sorry to all of those who paid over $200 for the sauce.
You spoke. We’ve listened. Lots more #SzechuanSauce and locations. Details soon. And that’s the wayyy the news goes!
— McDonald’s (@McDonalds)
Featured image: Ethan Anderson.