I’m a super fan of McDonald’s – what replaced the plastic toys in Happy Meals and the surprising origins of the Big Mac

SINCE the 1940’s, some of McDonald’s most popular dishes have undergone tremendous changes to keep up with the ever-changing world around them.

The fast-food giant started out selling mostly hot dogs before becoming what it is today.

The original Happy Meal came with a sundae instead of a toy


The original Happy Meal came with a sundae instead of a toyPhoto credit: Getty – Contributor

For children, the original Happy Meal menu was called Ronald. Instead of a toy, it came with something that some kids might think is better.

The original idea reportedly came from an employee named Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño in Guatemala. Fernández de Cofiño has developed the food offer for children who visit her restaurant.

Before it went national in 1979, the kids’ meal consisted of a hamburger, small fries, and a small sundae.

When it became a regular menu item, McDonald’s advertising executive Bob Bernstein suggested trading the sundae for a small toy.

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The company loved the idea and the first Happy Meals had a circus theme.

In 2021, McDonald’s announced it would swap the plastic toys for “renewable, recycled, or certified materials.”

Big Mac fans can thank Esther Glickstein Rose, who was a 21-year-old secretary in the company’s advertising department.

In 1967, colleagues laughed at the name, but it became “one of the most recognizable product names of all time”.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that McDonald’s Corp. Rose eventually took credit for inventing the name.

Perhaps the world’s biggest Big Mac fan is Donald Gorske, who has eaten one almost every day for the past 50 years.

Gorske, 68, has made it into the Guinness World Records — and of course he celebrated his success by heading to his local fast-food restaurant in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

The retired jailer usually eats two Big Macs a day.

In August 2021, Gorske updated his own record for the most Big Mac burgers eaten in his lifetime, with an official total of 32,340.

Gorske celebrated the 50th anniversary of eating the iconic burger on May 17, and has gone just eight days since 1972 without the “best sandwich in the world.”

One was in 1982 when his local McDonald’s closed during a snowstorm and another was the day his mother died as a mark of respect.

He told the Guinness Book of World Records of trying the sandwich for the first time: “I drove straight to McDonald’s, got my first three Big Macs, then got in the car and ate them.

“At that moment I said, ‘I’m probably going to eat these for the rest of my life’.”

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Gorske is held in such high esteem by the staff at his local McDonald’s that they have a portrait of him hung on their wall.

On the day of his record-breaking milestone, the store put up a sign outside that read, “Congratulations Don on 50 years of Macs.”

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Jessica MacLeish

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