Be careful what you dis, for it just may disappear.
It happened with folk rock and moderate Republicans. Now, more wrenchingly, it is happening with airplane food.
Not everybody feels this loss, I know. But I've always loved flying food. I once refused a free upgrade to first class because I worried my husband and I wouldn't get our coach-class omelets. (I didn't tell him about the upgrade offer until we were safely midair, eating those exquisite half-circles of egg. Surprisingly, he started to cry.)
But why? There's just no downside to coach-side food. It's free, it's fun and it even provides a chance to sample snacks that have yet to appear on Earth. For most of the 1980s, honey-roasted nuts seemed to exist only at 30,000 feet. Ditto SunChips.
That's why it is dismaying to note that today, out of all the major U.S. carriers, only Continental is still serving meals on short flights in economy class. All the other airlines have cut them for cost reasons. Or maybe they simply could no longer endure the ridicule. You know, "What's the only thing more indestructible than the airplane's black box? The Salisbury steak!"
Go ahead. Laugh. You won't be laughing when you're halfway to Houston with nothing to eat but your arm.
While gnawing, you might reflect on the history of the meal you're not getting. The first inflight feast was served Paris to London in 1927. It featured celery hearts with Roquefort, chicken a la Louisianne and lemon meringue pie. Though some would argue airplane food has been going downhill ever since, they forget the glory days of the 1930s when, on at least one airline, the co-pilot would take the passengers' orders and radio them to chefs ahead. Food on American Airlines was particularly delectable, thanks to New York consultant Pearl Metzelthin (curiously rhyming with an airline favorite yet to come: Pretzel Thin). Pearl outlawed airborne broccoli, for reasons of smell. All hail Pearl!
Once economy flights took off in the 1960s, airline meals became more or less TV dinners in the sky. For a country that subsists on Domino's pizza and McDonald's salads, I have no idea why this proved so objectionable, but it did.
Maybe an ungrateful America deserves the puny peanut packets now foisted upon it. But if you find even these unpalatable - do you mind if I eat yours? And how 'bout your arm?
Originally published on April 2, 2006>