Netherlands, March 18, 2004 — There wasn't really a non-stop
flight option from Seattle to Italy so we had to pick a spot to
stop. We ended up flying on Northwest/KLM through Amsterdam to Rome.
I have tried to be disciplined about not asking you to spend your
valuable time listening to me complain about airline food.
Anyone who deems themselves good enough to get on stage at amateur
night in their local comedy club has already covered that material
in detail. However, when you eat something good on an airplane you
should call it out.
Airline meals are constrained by a series of challenges.
You can't really cook anything on the plane, so all food must be made in
advance. And then the airline equipment for cooling and heating food
appears to have only two settings - frostbite cold, and corona hot.
Invariably the wilted lettuce of your salad has some crystallized ice on
it, and your hot "entree" looks like the surface of another planet. Just
wait a few minutes and both will arrive at a more reasonable
temperature. Unfortunately the food doesn't get any better in that time.
And sure enough, our flight from Seattle to Amsterdam on
Northwest had absolutely vile food. For some reason, despite the
limitations, airlines insist (or customers demand) facsimiles of meals
that should only be cooked in a real kitchen. Not warmed in an airplane
galley. And yet, why is it that with non-U.S. airlines, I always have
(and am often rewarded with) better quality plane food? I can't help but
suspect it has something to do with the American obsession around
quantity over quality. But whatever the reason, I always expect it to be
better on flights originating outside the U.S. Not great food, but at
least not completely atrocious. Our flight from Amsterdam to Rome didn't
They served us a simple breakfast. There was a
box with pre-packaged fruit, yogurt, and muffin. O.K. The fruit was
gross, and the cold muffin was too, but the yogurt was fine. But that
wasn't the highlight, they also handed out from a basket what they
called "cheese blintzes". In actuality they were smaller than fist-size
medium brown soft rolls covered with a variety of yummy seeds
(sunflower, pumpkin, etc.). In the middle of the bread was a slice of
good tasting cheese. And the entire thing had been melted. Basically a
simple grilled cheese sandwich, without the grilling, with a half-decent
cheese, and a roll with nuts on it for flavor contrast to the cheese.
Now this was something the heatboxes on an airplane could cook well. And
these simple sandwiches were absolutely delicious. Why airlines think I
want some horrifying approximation of pancakes, western omelet, and
sausage instead of a simpler dish that might actually taste good, I
don't know. Airlines should go with the strengths of their environment
as opposed to trying to mask its weaknesses. And by the way, if my
flight had departed from an American city, then my "cheese blintz" would
have been a slice of orange American Cheese molten between two soggy
pieces of a cheap variation on Wonder Bread. Yuck.
One summer at summer camp at a certain point
we got sick of the food being served in the cafeteria. We had a popcorn
popper in our bunk. This wasn't an air popper, but the old kind that had
a hot surface onto which you put oil, and then your unpopped kernels. We
improvised and used it as a frying pan to make tuna melts. After
stealing butter, bread, cheese, and tuna fish from the kitchen, we had
some of the most golden and perfect tasting tuna melts I have ever
eaten. All made in our popcorn popper. Bottom line: go with your
strengths, and something edible may emerge.