August 31, 2007

Tastes Plane

Ah, airline food. No one can resist the smell of microwaved, pre-packaged delicacies in the dry air of a Boeing 747.

At least, I couldn't on Monday night on my flight from Newark to London. Virgin Airlines supplied the food, seat, and entertainment. I provided the money and red eyes. With a scheduled departure of 9:25, I needed to provide plenty of cash and ended up with a good amount of red in the eyes.

There's not much point discussing the surroundings or costs of the flight as they effect the enjoyment of your meal. The flight boarded late and took off even later. The seat was extraordinarily cramped. The food was incredibly expensive given the ticket price. I did get to watch a television program or movie of my choice during the meal thanks to Virgin's incredible personal LCD television.

Once we were in the air, my hungry belly turned at the scent warm food. Unfortunately, I had to wait about 30 minutes for my food until first class was served. Eventually, the stewardess came around and passed me my food. A main dish, roll, water, wine, crackers, cheese and Oreo cheesecake were loaded onto my tiny tray table.

The main dish was a combination of beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, and broccoli. The potatoes were watery and managed to mingle with the gravy to make a sort of "grashed potatoes" that didn't taste too bad on the beef. I had to debate eating the beef, as I was a little worried that the U.K. company would have imported British beef, which still evokes uncomfortable images of angry cattle. I decided the USDA probably had my back and let my churning stomach guide my fork.

The cheese and crackers were pretty low-quality, but that was okay, because they matched the wine. I'm no connoisseur, but the wine tasted like the grapes had been grown by the light that filtered through the tiny windows of the plane.

Fortunately, the cheesecake was surprisingly satisfying. Whether because it was good while the rest of the food was mediocre or because it really was delicious, I was undeniably happy while wolfing down the piece from the pie-sliced-shaped plastic container. It even made the episode of Futurama that I was watching taste better.

Several hours later, after everyone on the plane but me had fallen asleep and woken back up, "breakfast service" was delivered. Apparently Virgin thinks breakfast is a choice between a roll or a "Strabury breakfast bar." That meant I got to wolf down a granola bar while marveling at the way the British pronounce the world "strabury."

In the end, the food wasn't anything worth calling home about on the air phone. It was pretty good for airline food, but that only merits 2.5 sporks out of five. The airline didn't even use sporks! The would have saved a little space in the premium real estate of my tray table. As it stood, my spoon spent much of its time jammed between my water cup and cheesecake tray -- space that would have been better served holding the tubes of salt and pepper, which were pushed under the cheese where they were unavailable to hold season by beef and gratatoes.

But my mediocre food met my mediocre expectations. Check back for the real food reviews from the United Kingdom. I can just taste the fish & chips now.

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