Olivia Dish

Paying for Airplane Food

In Taste Tests on September 16, 2009 at 12:49 am
The (TE) Special

The (TE) Special

About half-way into a four hour flight to LAX, I realized I was hungry.  Starving.  I didn’t even eat airplane food when it was free.  Was I really going to purchase something?


I asked for the menu.  Peanut M&Ms for $2?  Or the chicken pita?  I was leaning toward the sure thing when I noticed a (TE) beside the Grilled Chicken Gyro in Pita.  (TE) means this is a Todd English designed entrée.

Todd English.  I vaguely know who he is.  Top Chef, restaurants, dark hair.  My favorite part of Jacques Pepin’s wonderful memoir is when he writes about trying to make the food at Howard Johnson’s taste good.  Maybe “award-winning chef” TE, proudly featured on Delta’s menu, is trying to do the same thing here.

What the heck.  For $8, I would give it a try.  Since I’d had to cancel my dinner reservations, I’d at least have something to write about.

The Chicken Gyro arrived in a cellophane bag, each sandwich half wrapped tightly in another sheet of clingy plastic.  I doubled over, fished my camera out of my carry on tucked under the seat in front of me, and took photos.  I’m sure this only further alarmed my seatmate, who’d already witnessed my randy phone conversation with Mr. DeSpoon just prior to takeoff.  He (seatmate) tried not to notice (again), this time applying himself to assembling the gin and tonic he’d just purchased.

Also in the bag was a plastic cup containing the other vegetables tossed with what I assume was the “freshly made Tsatsiki  Sauce”.  I unwrapped one of the flat little pita halves and tried to fluff it up with the diced stuff. Not exactly the sandwich as pictured on the menu.

Todd English Unwrapped

Todd English Unwrapped

The pita started tearing apart.  It—and the chicken, sorry the Grilled Chicken Strips (apparently a proper name as spelled on menu description)—were as dry as rolled oats straight from the box and not nearly as flavorful.

Meanwhile, on the little screen above my tray, Paula Deen was slicing the juiciest pork tenderloin you’d ever seen.  My dining experience was further enhanced when the woman seated across the aisle from me flung her chunky bare foot in my general direction.

I know, why bother to complain about airplane food.  Why bother?  But also, why?  Why is it so very bad?  I’m sure I’ve had better sandwiches from a vending machine, (TE) not required.  I don’t recall ever having a sandwich that bad in kindergarten, when I hauled my food to school in a metal Peanuts lunchbox and it sat around for hours before being consumed.

I remember a time when Delta served a snack on flights, free.  It came in a basket, with a cute little ham sandwich, an apple, some chips, and best part—a Goo Goo Cluster.  It was always quite good.  See?  Simple food, just the kind of thing you’d find in a lunch box.  Yes, I’d pay for that, cheerfully.

Instead, I paid 8 bucks for a mound of chewy chicken and stale bread.  (And I fear I’m about to pay a little more; I feel tummy trouble coming on.) I only hope Todd English was paid well for putting his monogram on the menu.


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