Once, far in the past and well beyond the recollection of modern travelers, American airlines used to serve actual food on planes. To quote Steely Dan, those days are gone forever, over a long time ago. Now, on most flights, it’s a quick offering of lukewarm coffee and some kind of “snack.”
And it’s not like the “snack” options present the air passenger with a broad smorgasbord of mouth-watering choices, either. Typically, three choices are offered, and two of them inevitably are peanuts and pretzels. Any time, day or night, whether you’re on an early morning flight or trying to just get home before midnight, you can get twice your daily quotient of sodium by having the flight attendant hand you a tiny bag of greasy peanuts or stale pretzels. Somewhere, somewhen, airlines entered into a devil’s pact with the peanut growers and pretzel bakers of America and agreed that they would comprise two of the three choices offered American air travelers.
Do you ever wonder what kind of exotic, interesting, and possibly non-salt-laden food is offered on Air India, or Air Mozambique flights? What does Finnish Air furnish to its passengers? We can be reasonably certain that peanuts and pretzels aren’t on the menu in every airline flying anywhere in the world. It makes you want to fly on an international airline just to see what kinds of alternatives might actually be presented. This is a radical notion, but perhaps — just perhaps — the offerings move beyond the already overused nut and salt categories.
If, like me, the idea of eating pretzels or salty peanuts isn’t all that appealing on a 7 a.m. flight, your focus is on the third option. If you’re lucky, it’s some kind of granola bar or trail mix — something substantial, and chewy, and maybe with a fleck or two of dried fruit in it. If that’s not available, you hope for the generic faux biscotti cookie/cracker, which at least is edible and not overpoweringly sugary or artificially flavored. But sometimes, you get some mad airline food buyer’s failed experiment — like the maple-flavored cookies I was handed on a recent flight. Really, maple-flavored? How many people really crave the maple taste on anything other than a stack of buttery pancakes? Can’t airlines at least aim for the middle, and try to identify food offerings that are reasonably calculated to appeal to a significant chunk of the weary air travelers of America?
I ate the maple wafers, of course, and I can say that while they were maple-flavored, at least there weren’t many of them.
It’s time to start booking some overseas travel.