I read a book once (with pictures) by a former airline pilot who suggested saying you had special dietry requirements when you buy your ticket, e.g. say you need a salt-free meal and take your own salt with you. He reckoned the special meals tended to be of a better quality than the rest of them. I've never had the nerve to try it but I've no complaints about the food I've had on Northwest & Delta flights.
Within Europe, I've found that, apart from British Airways, the meal usually consists of a dry sandwich (usually cheese) and a couple of lettuce leaves. As for breakfast... a dry chocolate pastry at 7:00 in the morning... no thanks. On British Airways you get the works - eggs, sausage, bacon, cereal, roll, butter & marmalade, coffee and fruit juice.
There was one European flight that surprised me though. Due to a missed Swissair connection, I was once put on a Crossair flight from Amsterdam to Basle. First of all it was a SAAB 340 which was a first for me, then the solitary stewardess (OK, FA) served gateau and champagne the whole trip.