eating well while flying

Posted on 25.06.2011

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Let me tell you about my most recent flights, which were to and from Japan on the wondrous airline China Eastern. CE hasn’t earned a place in my heart as my favorite airline, but they weren’t bad. However, I’m not writing today about the flight itself, but about the food.

René is awesome. Whenever he books my flights for me, he is SURE to check off the ‘food issues’ box and alert the airline to my GFDF status. It’s really awesome that he does that for me. Sadly, what you and I know as Gluten and Dairy free seems to be lost on most airlines. And it’s not just China Eastern, either. What I am about to describe is par for the course on any international flight I’ve taken in the last few years, and the reason for the article.

This is how it usually plays out: I get to the check-in desk and all is going well. Then comes the question: “You requested a specialty meal, correct?” At first, before I was aware of what René was doing, I’d say no, and end up getting badgered at the desk until I admitted that I didn’t buy my ticket and someone else did, and they must have checked the box off. All is forgiven and forgotten until I get on the plane, when a high-altitude beverage coordinator asks me if I’ve ordered a vegetarian meal. I am NO vegetarian. I say no. Drama ensues, and I have to say that I am not a vegetarian, I have a gluten allergy. Then come the furrowed eyebrows and confused faces, like I’ve got two heads and just asked for an extra pillow. Gluten allergies don’t seem to be so well-known once you leave Europe.

It’s gotten to the point where I experiment with these things. On the way to my destination, I eat the vegetarian offering. On the way back, I adamantly deny being a vegetarian and request the ‘meat’ option. Here’s what I can tell you: When you request the vegetarian meal, you get 3 plates of salad instead of the ‘main’ dish, ‘side’ dish, and desert. I got three salads and two fruit plates on my last trip, instead of the chicken, rice, salad, fruit and pudding meal that I got on the way back while claiming to eat meat. NOT cool. I mean, salad is great, but not that much salad. I had to send the bread back both times, and this confused the workers, so now I just offer it to René or whoever is sitting next to me.

But as you can see, this is an issue.

I got lucky on the way back from Japan, I totally loaded up on Onigiri at the airport and snacked on them the whole way. And I fully intend to do that when I go to and from Japan.

But for when that’s NOT the case, I just read this really helpful article that I’d like to share. It’s hard enough getting good food on an airplane that you can actually enjoy (unless you’re flying with Singapore Air, who offers pad thai on board). Getting GFDF food offerings is obviously harder. This was something I was just coming around to in my own experiences and I’m hoping that I can help some of my friends that fly a lot, too.

Pack a Picnic for Your Next Flight. This article just came from the NYTimes today, and might be the most helpful thing I’ve read from them in quite some time. I love the idea of freezing shrimp cocktail, and also about bringing sushi with you… I’ll definitely be trying those next time! I think I’d better take the time next time to get to know FRA airport better, so I know what I can pick up there if I can’t bring it from home.

Enjoy, fly well and eat well, too!

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Posted in: food, travel