Sorry, but I like airline food in a sick way. Always have. (And wait, I’m not sorry!) I’m not talking about the paltry snacks of nuts and cookies — I don’t have time for those. (Sure, nuts contain protein, but then there’s all that sodium.) I’m talking about the real meals — that is, if you can find a solvent airline that still serves them to passengers onboard. Of course, airline meals are woefully over-processed (wait, that’s not Alice Waters back there?), but as far as the Standard American Diet goes, they’re really not all that unhealthy, especially if you’re not a particularly frequent flyer. And I refuse to believe that it’s healthier to bring fast-food-like meals with you on the plane to eat. (Also, doing so makes the plane smell worse than it already does, so would you please not do that?)
I mean, really, what are we talking about here: A plastic tray of overcooked pasta or limp chicken? Harmless. (I never get the fish or beef. I may like airline food, but I’m not a complete idiot.) A salad composed of iceberg lettuce? A small roll? A single-serving package of cheese and crackers? And, of course, an unidentifiable jiggly dessert, but I always skip those, because even I, an airline-food-apologist of the highest order, would never be able to convince myself or anyone else that those suckers are even remotely healthy.
As I look over my “free” meal, I spot plenty of protein in the chicken entree and the packet of cheese on the side. Sure, there are some empty carbs in that dinner roll and those crackers. (But I worked out this morning!) Still, I just eat half the roll and take the cheese without the crackers. And more good news: If little else, iceberg lettuce is water with hardly any calories. Hey, at least we’re working with something plant-based here. (And it’s important to keep hydrated at 39,000 feet.) Skip the booze and it’s almost like you’re dining at a weight-loss destination spa, albeit one that’s hurtling through mid-air. And is stuffy.
My point is that when I travel (especially on long-haul flights), I get hungry, and when I get hungry I need to eat. Period. Up here in this sealed tin tube, my options are fairly limited. (Most of the food available at the gate is also highly-processed, and it’s also damn expensive.) So a few select processed airline foods here and there won’t kill me. They may not make me stronger, either, but I don’t eat them very often at all, so I’m not worried about any long-term ill health effects. And let’s face it: There are always unhealthier things to eat. (Not that I intend to eat those, either.) Which reminds me that I’ve always wanted to ask a flight attendant or commercial pilot if they ever eat anything other than airline food in-flight. But I never have, because I’m afraid of the answer they’ll give.
But surely I’m not the only one out there who feels warmly toward airplane food. Do you have a secret (or not-so-secret) affinity for the stuff? What are your favorite in-flight food picks? Take off in our comments section, below.