Looking through photos of the pre-pandemic travel days, I began to feel nostalgic for something unusual…or so I thought, until coming across news of Malaysians being able to order AirAsia meals at Kuala Lumpur malls. Soon after, I found out about Singapore Airlines catering economy and business class meals to private residences. Folks, you’re in Southeast Asia; don’t you realize you’re in a hotbed of diverse cuisines?
But then I think, those people don’t necessarily miss the food, they miss the gestalt of traveling…among those traits are the thrill of boarding a plane, gazing at the various destinations visible on the airports departures screens, exploring the unknown, the mono no aware element, and of course, trying different foods.
The way I look at it, if I’m eating an airline meal, tasty or inedible, that means I’m traveling somewhere.
Hey, it could be worse.
Azerbaijan Airlines, New York JFK to Baku GYD, 2016.
When Azerbaijan Airlines launched this route – their only flight to the US – I had read that visas would be easier and cheaper to obtain by traveling on it. Wanting to avail of this offer, I booked a flight to Istanbul, with a few days stopover in Baku.
Surprisingly, the in-flight meal wasn’t terrible. Chicken and pasta, basdırma (air-dried beef), and a raspberry crumble were on the tray, none of which offended the palette too much.
Qatar Airways, Doha DOH to Philadelphia PHL, 2017.
Through some creative routing, I snagged a long-haul business class flight. And really, Doha to Philly? Yep, because Qatar Airways and American Airlines have hubs in those airports, respectively.
With this meal, the airline was truly cooking with gas. Since it was breakfast time, they served ful medames, or cooked fava beans with olive oil, cumin and garlic, served with tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, and the mild Lebanese cheese called Baladi.
Skymark Airlines, Naha OKA to Ibaraki/Mito IBR, 2017.
Skymark Airlines is a Japanese low-cost carrier, so beyond a successful take-off and landing, don’t expect much. Then again, it has never been an airline’s job to do anything more than get us from A to B, right?
Nevertheless, the snack was a company-branded Kit Kat bar. What is it with Japan and Kit Kats? Great marketing, that’s what. When pronounced in Japanese, the name sounds similar to きっと勝つ, which translates as “undoubtedly/surely win.”
What consumers win besides a sugar rush is beyond me.
Japan Airlines, Tokyo NRT to Dallas DFW, 2017.
More business class airline food, but this time, courtesy of frequent flier miles.
They really piled on the courses, but this was one of the lighter entries. Two things stand out: 1) On the smoked salmon salad is that condiment ubiquitous in East Asia, mayonnaise. Can’t stand the stuff, primarily because of my time over there. 2) Tomato Juice. I love tomatoes, and love their juice, but I only really drink the stuff on planes. Seems many travelers share this behavior.
Oman Air, Bangkok BKK to Muscat, MCT, 2019.
This is the most recent in-flight meal photo I have in my photo gallery. The meal, chicken biryani with vegetables, green beans, and a chiffon cake, were not particularly memorable.
What does stand out in my mind was that just a few hours earlier, I was returning to my hotel room after partying with some Chinese colleagues in Shenzhen. The full itinerary was Hong Kong to Bangkok to Muscat to Jeddah, so when this photo was taken the trip had barely begun. All I can think about now is when the next time I can party in Shenzhen will be.