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Aug 2, 2001 10:55 AM

Airline meals

  • c

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the "special order" airline meals are far superior to those served to the general populace, thus rewarding those with sufficient foresight to order them. My question is this -- which special meal should I order? I have no special dietary requirements (though, like many who love food too much, I am trying to watch my weight). Should I order Kosher? Low calorie? Hindu? I'm flying domestic on American, and will be eating Breakfast and Dinner. I would welcome all suggestions/comments/rants/anecdotes.

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  1. s
    Simon Majumdar

    My only anecdote is on from the time I took a cheap flight to India on honeymoon in 1989.

    We flew with TWA ( whose motto should be "makes even the shortest journey seem like an eternity" )and we ordered the Hindu meal, not through any failure to enjoy cooked dead flesh but because on flights to India the vegetarian food is so much better. In some cases even edible. Most Air India flights for example assume you will not eat meat unless you specify you are "non veg" where on they look at you as if you a doomed to be reincarnated as Jason Perlow:) and sigh wearily passing you a plate of grey congealed something or other.

    When the first meal arrived. We were a little taken aback to see that the main ingredient seemed to have some relationship to chicken. When we questioned the delightful stewardess ( that's quite heavily laced with British irony by the way) we were told rather brusquely through a haze of cheap hair lacquer that they had given us the Kosher meal as it was " more or less the same thing"

    Ah beauty and brains, the TWA way....................

    1 Reply
    1. re: Simon Majumdar

      Ask for a fresh fruit plate and bring your own protein, if needed. Ovo-Lacto vegetarian also seems to be fairly inoffensive (basically, it's a fruit plate). I was served a completely raw chicken kiev in Delta's first class cabin once, and was so tired I didn't notice until it was in my mouth. British Airways once food poisoned my wife with a chicken dish. Their response was a clipped, snotty "sorry" so I've sworn off BA and all airline chicken. I've got to tell you, BA coach class (steerage I suppose, to the Brits) is a terrific way to have people you pay abuse you.

    2. I don't know if they still offer a cold seafood option but that's what I special-ordered several years ago on an American Airlines flight from the East to the West coast. I was served a good size shrimp cocktail - chilled boiled shrimps sitting atop lettuce leaves, a couple of slices of cucumber and a piece or two of tomato. With a glass of white wine I enjoyed it quite a bit. It was surprisingly fresh and light enough so that I was ready to eat again when we touched down in LA. If it's available that's what I'd recommend.

      1. Order the vegetarian or the fruit plate, and bring your own snacks as a back up. Recently flew American from LA to Paris, and had the "pleasure" of their in-flight food on the outbound flight. We were forewarned by a friendly flight attendant that the Paris to LA return flight had notoriously bad food (and it was, a choice of some literally stinking version of salmon or rubber chicken), so we hit a couple of take out places before leaving Paris, and ate like royalty on the way back.

        1. I was watching one of my beloved PBS food-porn shows, and the guy was doing food to bring on the airplane with you. One of the things he made was a lobster tail over baby greens with a vanilla vinagrette that you would add once you reached 20,000 feet. I was imagining someone bringing their own white linens, silver, flower in vase, lobster salad, and some chocolate truffles... ordering some bubbly from the air-waitress - and I can't tell you how hard I was laughing imaging the dirty stares from fellow passengers. Definately bring your own!!!

          1. c
            Caitlin McGrath

            Unfortunately, this truism no longer holds true. I used to usually do quite well with vegetarian meals on American--that was long ago--and then there was a period in the early 90s when their standard choices usually included a surprisingly edible vegetarian pasta option. Although I haven't flown AA myself lately, people seem to feel their food has sunk to the level of the others. I've had only inedible meals--even specially ordered ones--on recent flights no matter what the carrier.

            While the *idea* of the cold seafood plate is appealing, I wouldn't trust an airline re freshness of seafood/safety. I'm with Greg: the only solution is to request the fruit plate and brown bag it with something good from home. Elsewise, you'll end up hungry, disgusted, and disgruntled, I guarantee.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              I agree with this. When I first started ordering special meals in the late 80s, they were a great way to make sure I got something decent. Sometimes the food was even surprisingly tasty. But these days it all seems to be complete garbage. About six months ago, my husband got severe food poisoning from ranch dressing in a veggie meal. (Continental claimed that it couldn't have been their fault because no one else had complained. Duh. Only three people on the whole flight got special meals, and the third special meal was low sodium. Luckily I don't particularly like ranch dressing.)

              If you like rice, you might request an Asian meal or an Asian vegetarian meal. Even if the rest of the meal sucks, at least you'll have rice, which is hard to screw up (at least to the point of inedibility).

              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                All the notes re bringing your own food reminded me of another story. On a Southwest Airlines flight (bless them for recognizing the limitations and serving cookies and peanuts) from San Francisco to Austin, we assembled a fantastic meal featuring various foodstuffs from around SF. We brought along plenty of extras, which we offered to the flight attendants. First class service in a narrow seat. Ingratiating myself to a harried flight attendant has also brought me first class meals and complimentary drinks to a miserable seat in economy on another carrier. Being civilized, patient and understanding to these terribly overworked people makes for a more pleasant trip all the way around. Except on British Airways, where on the same flight they poisoned my wife, they also tore my pants' leg with a bevvy cart and spilled coffee in my lap. "Sorry!" Ugh, deliver me from airline hell.

                1. re: Greg Spence

                  This reminds me of when I once flew to London on Thanksgiving, with three home-made pecan pies for the people I was visiting...I sacrificed one of them to the flight staff...and got a seat in business class. Too bad I had nothing to offer on the return...