up and away
I’ve been absent the last few weeks. Entirely due to the fact that turning 30 has been the most brilliant experience thanks to family, friends, and a whole lot of food. And drink. Let’s not forget the drink. 6 weeks and counting. And due to the fact that my life has taken an unexpected turn of late. As I write this, I am way up high in the sky on the first of two flights to the Philippines. For three months. Sadly, my German is not with me. He’s manning the fort at home until I head back in December. I miss him already.
To say that my life so far has had an international touch is putting it mildly. I’ve been on more airplanes than I can count. Seen more airports than I sometimes wished to. Rubbed shoulders with many a stranger trying to get comfortable in those ridiculously narrow seats. And eaten the entire spectrum of airplane food on offer. Growing up, my exposure to airline food was limited to Thai Airways and Lufthansa. Spoiled rotten, I was. Back then you were still given real cutlery and napkins with your tray of food. If I’m not mistaken, we still have a few Thai Airways teaspoons knocking about in our cutlery tray at home. Airplane food is a weird thing. Those tiny little trays, designed so that everything fits perfectly until you start unpacking it, one box at a time. Where to with it all? All of a sudden your lap is overflowing with salt and pepper packets, plastic lids, plastic bags, and plastic cutlery. Those twee menu cards that get handed out and the beginning of a flight so that you know what those see-through plastic boxes are meant to contain. And the set-up is almost always the same. A warm main – chicken or fish? A salad of some kind. Cake business. Perhaps some fruit salad. A bread roll. Some margarine and a neatly packed square of soft cheese. Apart from, of course, when you fly really low-cost. Then you find yourself shelling out 5 pounds for a cup of instant noodle soup or a stale panini. Apparently. I’ve never done this myself. I honestly think I would rather starve.
I have friends who loathe airplane food and will not even consider eating it. Trays go back untouched if they are accepted at all. I’m not too bothered. I’ve had some alright tasting dinners on flights. Especially the Asian ones. There’s always a bit of rice and curry. Nice. Pasta is always a dubious choice in my eyes. The worst was probably a crustless cheese sandwich and a fake orange juice box chucked at me on a seriously short flight over the Red Sea. Most people I know are like me. They will eat what’s on the tray, leaving the bits they cannot identify (perhaps with a careful nibble here and there) or conjure up much love for. However, I have a friend who loves airplane food over everything else. It is the highlight of her trip. Far more exciting than the destination itself it would seem. The weird part of it all is that she is the fussiest eater I have ever come across, turning her nose up at garlic, rice, anything out of the ocean, most cheeses, chilli, and a variety of veg. I’m sure there’s more. It’s just that I stopped listening after rice.
For me, desserts have always been the downfall of airplane food. It was always the jelly that did it. Cakes on airplanes are always covered jelly. At least they used to be. Not just cakes either. That weird, see-thru, not entirely tasteless, gelatinous layer covers most airplane desserts. Now, logically speaking, I do understand (to a certain extent) the purpose of the clear jelly preserving whatever fruits may be atop my cake. On a completely emotional level, the jelly creeps me out. I know it’s not supposed to taste of anything. Only it does. And the texture of it – the jelliness of it all – freaks me out no end. Maybe it’s because my first encounter with jelly of this kind was the kind you find in German breakfast coldcuts, a terrine of meat and/or vegetables. Slightly sour-tasting, if I remember rightly. Whenever we were back in Germany, my dad would mmh and aah as he sliced it onto his bread in the morning as I looked on in horror. I’m not quite so dramatic about it anymore. But I certainly do not need it on any cake. So I maintain a healthy distance from rubbery foods. Case in point, I don’t even bother opening my little plastic box of chocolate dessert, offering it instead to the stranger next to me who has made my shoulder his pillow until we reach Doha.