It’s been quite a summer. During the last two months I have traveled on planes, trains and automobiles all over – not to mention 150 miles on foot. I’ve eaten on the road, on the plane, or at a restaurant more often in a few weeks than I usually do in one year, and mostly the quality of the food has been at least ok, sometimes very good – with the dreaded exception of airplane food.
Bashing airplane food is easy. There’s no end to the dried out excuses for meals that are handed out on planes all the time, and everyone’s had more than their fair share. British Airways and Qatar Airlines dished out some pretty standard trays of overheld unappetizing food to me on the eight flights that I took this summer. Coming back from Athens to Manila on QA, we upgraded to business class where the food was touted as a gastronomic delight from leather bound menus and presented course by course with a flourish. As they brought out the individual courses, the same stale, dried out fare was served. This only difference between economy and business class was the linen napkin and the real fork. It was very disappointing. Horrible rubbery shrimp, tough chicken, cold grilled soggy courgettes, yesterday’s something…. So airlines – please – it’s not that difficult….especially in business class….why can’t you serve us simpler food of higher quality? Stop trying to make out you’re serving haute cuisine and then disappoint so incredibly with the execution. If you promise us “fluffy whipped mashed potatoes” and deliver dried out potato bullets, we notice. Really.
I had far, far better impromptu picnics on walks this summer than anything I ate on the plane. Good French bread, tasty goats cheese and a little chutney is so seductive, easy to hold in a chiller, and feels like a treat. A couple of slices of ripe tomato and buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil – fabulous and it won’t dry out on the tray or taste bad from the fridge. Eggs are horrible from a holding cabinet – always – bad every time. Don’t go there. Yogurt and fresh fruit always delivers if you start with a decent product. And on the subject of fruit – I had the fruit plate in business class which was prepared in Athens. I have eaten fantastic Greek fruit all month – melons, peaches and grapes in particular. They are cheap, seasonal and delicious. What did Qatar serve? Inferior pineapple and kiwi. Why?! How far did the pathetic things have to travel to ultimately be rejected on my plate? I know it always comes down to the excuse of cost. But I refuse to believe it is the only factor. We need a more modern approach to airline food using fresh, local seasonal ingredients from the country that’s preparing the food, less pomp and pretending to be a five class restaurant in the sky, less attempted (faux) variety and more quality. Anyone know any airlines that are doing it right?