A Fighting Chance

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

It’s strange that when traveling, I mean while in the process of actually getting from A to B, my food choices devolve within the web of plebeian masses.  Nothing for breakfast on my way to the airport, a gigantic cup of coffee after check-in (what am I thinking?!   that can lead to nothing but an encounter with an airplane lav!), a 1000-calorie muffin, dry snack mix on the plane, washed down with a full-sugar ginger ale, greasy pizza for lunch during the layover, more soda, and wine on arrival for dinner.  No wonder I feel a wretched mess.

But in my defense, it can be difficult to find reasonable food when dashing between gates.  There is always a McDonald’s, some measure of coffee shop/cafe simmering to bitterness under fluorescent lights, someplace serving tepid pizza from under warming lamps and those sandwich-salad-on-the-go kiosks.   The latter are very misleading when one is looking for good food-  to have a ham & swiss sandwich, for example, one is pretty much guaranteed to get a small loaf of white bread stuffed lopsidedly with a great gob of sliced ham (origin far, far from being known), a couple of thin slices of tasteless plastic cheese, one sad ribby piece of lettuce and sliced tomatoes defeating the mayonnaise’s efforts to keep the bread from getting soggy.   After two or three days spent lolling in the refrigerated kiosk, that sandwich is thoroughly cold, dry on the outside, soggy on the inside, pathetic, utterly without taste.   A salad from one of these places is, at best, a mass of dried out iceberg coated with a solid layer of cheese and bacon bits, with a mini tub of full-fat dressing wedged in along the side of the bowl.  There are probably more calories in half of that little tub than there are people onboard the average 737.

But at last, with this most recent extendo-flight to and from Nova Scotia, there are signs of hope.  In Chicago, we found the Salad Express- one must still contend with cheese and ham and bacon ladled onto greens, but here are real choices for food that don’t contain massive amounts of calories and fat.  Miraculous that one can choose from several vinaigrette dressings.   In Halifax, we purchased a packaged spinach salad which (despite the “bacon” bits) contained delightfully fresh and springy spinach.   We bought Vitamin water and I drank from the water fountain.  Water!  From the fountain!  I willfully ignored the possibility of germs that came from far and wide.

rightbite_200x1391Most encouraging of all was United.  Yes, United Airlines; an unsuspecting domestic-route vanguard of quality buy-on-board food, a company that doesn’t force its customers into making food choices that will result in what could arguably called an airplane-food hangover.   On a 4+ hour flight, we had the choice of 4 “snackpacks“:  two of them involved cheesespread, one involved cheese sticks (described as “comfort food a-go-go”?) and one, thankfully, with no cheese at all.  I opted for the RightBite snackpack, a combo including hummus made with pronounceable ingredients, tuna salad made without mayonnaise, and baked pita chips, among other things.   Amazing to finally be offered food onboard that would normally be a part of my everyday diet, instead of something I would eat only whilst drunk and starving.   That snackpack, plus an apple bought before the 2-hour on-tarmac delay, saved my sanity.

So there is hope!  We arrived home after 16+ hours of travel without having been forced to eat unreasonble food.   I still drank wine for dinner on arrival, but at least my tastebuds were intact.


Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Thick, lovely slabs of tuna.  Red and quivering,  glistening with a slick sheen of a soy marinade.  Seared with hot grill marks, cool and raw in the center, it fits perfectly under a moist tangle of slaw and a spongy brioche.   I wish lunch were always this perfect.


A fist-sized steak of fish carefully sliced into thin ruby strips, mounded onto a bed of crisply dressed carrots and cabbage and made to glow from the egg yolk dropped into the centre.  A capricious toss of black sesame for drama, a glass of champagne, just because.