More Choice, Still Bad Airline Food

Airline food, generally, is for the birds.Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Airline food, generally, is for the birds.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Header-image-StephenBy Robert K Stephen

(PARIS, FRANCE) – Kosher or diabetic on your next international flight? I remember my first airline flight in 1971, from Montreal to New York, on the now long-defunct Eastern Airlines. Breakfast of fresh fruit, omelette, bacon, and French toast, and all in steerage class.

And, over the years, the quality has declined to the point the economy passenger is forced to choose between pasta or chicken and, usually by the time row twenty is reached, they are out of the chicken.

Personally, I’d say pack a lunch and a bottle of wine, and enjoy a nice little picnic. But, as for the wine, it’s a liquid and Osama really fucked us over on that one, because of 9-11.

So, can you combat the rut of, “Sorry, no chicken left”?

No need to be a wimp. You can fight back and order a special meal.

Most airlines offer a range of choices for religious and cultural reasons, but you need not be of that religion or culture to order the meal. The advantage is that you are served first and always avoid that horrid chocolate cake with a puff of whipped cream on it.

The disadvantage is that you have finished your meal before anyone else has been served and you are trapped with a tray on your table. However, when the coast is clear and the carts are further up the aisle, quickly run back to the galley and leave your tray there.

I most often travel Air Canada over the ocean, but have suffered aboard Air Transat and on a horrible Lufthansa cattle car flight; on occasion rammed in like sardines with a horrible entertainment system.

I have tried diabetic food, which ran for a couple of good years and then collapsed very quickly when the fresh fruit was replaced by the lowest of low canned fruit salad.

The Hindu isn’t bad, but invariably its curry and stinks up a bit of a storm.

Generally speaking, the food catered out of Toronto is the lowest of low.

Now what does Air Canada offer you as meal choices on an international flight? Here they are.

  • Asian vegetarian meal
  • Baby meal
  • Bland meal
  • Children’s meal
  • Diabetic meal
  • Fruit plate meal
  • Gluten intolerant meal
  • Hindu meal
  • Kosher meal
  • Lactose-free meal
  • Low-calorie meal
  • Low fat meal
  • Low salt meal
  • Muslim meal
  • Vegetarian meal (non-dairy)
  • Vegetarian meal (lacto-ovo)
  • Vegetarian oriental meal

Air Transat counters with:

  • Diabetic – Sugar-free meal, without added sugar, low in carbohydrates and high in fibre
  • Gluten-free – Free of wheat, gluten, barley, rye or oat products
  • Low Calorie – Low fat and high fibre
  • Low fat, Low cholesterol – Low fat and low saturated fat
  • Low sodium – Restricted sodium/no salt added
  • No lactose – Free of dairy products
  • Asian vegetarian – Representative of Asian culture using traditional ingredients
  • Vegetarian with dairy products – Free of meat or meat products, no fish
  • Vegetarian without dairy products – Free of meat or meat products, no fish, no dairy
  • Kosher – Prepared according to Jewish dietary laws
  • Hindu – Free of beef, pork, and veal products
  • Muslim – Free of pork and alcohol products
  • Child meal (available only on flights to/from Europe – Easy to chew, easy to manipulate

Was the Kosher meal satisfying? The chickpea and onion salad wasn’t bad, but the whole-wheat rolls were hard as hockey pucks. There was what, I thought, to be a piece of chicken in some sweet and sour sauce with green and yellow beans, fresh I may say and not canned. There was a passable honey raisin cake with a cup of chilled spring water.

The breakfast service consisted of a rock hard chocolate chip muffin and a fresh fruit salad. How recently it had been prepared was perhaps a different question.

Kudos to the Air Canada flight attendant who brought me her own supply of Jasmine tea for a hot cuppa.

From Paris back to Toronto, the meal was prepared by Langerehuize under the strict supervision of Badatz Amsterdam. Why on earth does a Dutch company have any involvement in a flight departing from Paris?

Lunch commenced with some Euro version of coleslaw with some mini, and somewhat, fresh pita on the side. The hot meal consisted of a spicy mushroom and onion sauce with a gloop of some mush on the side, which I originally thought was pasta, but later concluded it was a lump of slivered fried potatoes.

A minute fleck of broccoli and two tiny pieces of beef were buried in the sauce. The spring water was 3/4 ice and ¼ water.

A nice slice of marble cake finished off the feast. A rather fearsome Heinz baby food container of apple sauce was present. It was best left untouched.

The pièce de résistance just might have occurred prior to landing where fellow economy passengers were served a hot wrap. I feasted on a potato and red pepper omelette with those weird fried potatoes, German orange juice, and a fresh croissant with Swiss raspberry jam.

Kosher may be an interesting choice but, in the end, it’s economy kosher. If I only had thought about it, a baguette full of duck pate and camembert at my favourite Parisian bakery for 3.45 Euros might have been a better deal, with a cool Heineken.

Air Canada hasn’t quite figured how to keep beer cold. The Air Canada wine, La Terre, was horrific swill. Disgracefully French and not Canadian. Shame, shame, and more shame on Air Canada for not carrying Canadian wine.

Porter Airlines does it, and most EU airlines serve their country’s wine, but not Air Canada.

Do we have to vote NDP to have Air Canada stop embarrassing us as Canadians? A national carrier of Canada refusing to serve Canadian wines. Let’s get a Royal Commission going on that.

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write." Email Robert Stephen