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6 ways the McDonald's Big Mac lives on after its inventor's death

Whether you find it heavenly or horrible, the two-all-beef-patties creation has made a meaty mark on pop culture. Here are some cheesy memories. Pass the special sauce.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
3 min read
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Billions have been sold, but in these days of design by committee, it's still hard to believe McDonald's Big Mac sandwich actually had a single inventor. Back in 1967, Michael James "Jim" Delligatti, a Pennsylvania franchisee of the fast-food chain, thought his customers wanted a bigger sandwich, so he came up with the double-pattied burger.

Deligatti died on Monday at age 98, a pretty long life for a man who reportedly ate at least one of his 540-calorie inventions each week for decades.

"He was often asked why he named it the Big Mac, and he said because Big Mc sounded too funny," his son Michael Delligatti told the AP. Gd pnt!

The burger Delligatti popularized is heaven to some and horrific to others, but whatever you think of it, it's made a memorable, meaty mark on our culture. Here are six cheesy memories.

The all-Big Mac diet

Morgan Spurlock made a name for himself by eating at McDonald's for 30 days straight in the 2004 Oscar-nominated documentary "Super Size Me." To no one's surprise, he gained 24 pounds and suffered numerous other health problems due to the diet.

But one of the most memorable characters in the film, Don Gorske, seems to suffer no ill health from his practically-all-Big-Mac diet. Gorske tells Spurlock he ate nine Big Macs on the day he discovered the burger in 1972. He's even written a book about his obsession, titled "22,477 Big Macs."


Back when everyone in the United States watched the same handful of TV channels, it sometimes seemed as if the entire country knew every commercial jingle. And few burrowed into America's collective brainstem more than McDonald's 1974 musical Big Mac ad.

If you're of a certain age, you can still sing it: "Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun." I should maybe be embarrassed that I didn't have to look up one word of that, yet still cannot translate Fahrenheit to Celsius without the internet.

Big Kahuna burger as last meal

In Quentin Tarantino's 1994 hit movie "Pulp Fiction," Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) commandeers a Big Kahuna burger from poor Brett -- or is it Brad, as in "check out the big brain on Brad"? It's not a Big Mac -- Jules acknowledges it's not from "Mac Donald's"-- but it's pretty much a stand-in for one, even down to the "Big" in its name. It's just one more delicious element in a torturous, drawn-out scene of the type Tarantino does so well, where the suspense is as tasty as Brett's Sprite.

Hey, let's go to the theater for a long commercial

So, there was this movie, "E.T.," that was mega-popular in 1982, and somehow someone at McDonald's decided the fast-food giant needed its own version of the film. Only instead of E.T., the character's initials were M.A.C., or MAC, and it stood for Mysterious Alien Creature, because there's no way Spielberg will sue a tiny little family business like McDonald's, right?

Many considered "Mac and Me" to be one of the worst movies ever made, although a main character uses a wheelchair, which was pretty innovative for 1988. But it might take falling into a meat coma to forget this 99-minute, big-screen commercial.

The Big Mac Index

Those big smarties at The Economist needed a way to measure purchasing power between different currencies, and they turned to Delligatti's sandwich as a solution. They invented the Big Mac Index in 1986 as a lighthearted, easy-to-understand way to compare purchasing power, and it's nothing if not educational. In 2015, for example, the cheapest Big Macs were in Venezuela, the priciest in Switzerland, and it would take a Kenyan 172 minutes of work to be able to afford one. How come our economics professors never explained things this way?

After-dinner mint

Give the last word to The Onion, which has poked fun at the Big Mac more than once, but never better than this: "McDonald's Announces New Spearmint After-Dinner Big Mac."