What is it with airline food? Or more to the point why do people eat it? I know I'm probably in a minority again, but I would rather eat someone else's ear wax than chomp down on the slop that is served up by most airlines. I guess my distaste for airline food started whilst I worked at a catering company during the summer break from college.
Apart from chopping wood (Work) and various other minor Saturday jobs, my time at 'Trust House Forte in-flight catering services ltd' was my first real job, based at Birmingham International Airport (Then called Elmdon Airport), we would prepare more than 5000 meals per day for the airlines departing from the airport. Now when I say meals, perhaps I am exaggerating things a little. We would follow instructions laid down in a book full of pictures to show exactly which direction and how many peas/beans/carrots or whatever was required to fit into it's little plastic home, a sort of food preparation by numbers. We would be chastised for having too many slices of cucumber, 4 segments of orange rather than the prescribed 3 or having confused the 300 meals for a Thomson Holidays with those for a Thomson Travel Holidays flight which only took two olives and not 3!!
Don't get me wrong the conditions were good as was the pay, and even some of the food (albeit the 1st class menus) were pretty nice, in-fact when no one was looking we would hide in the enormous walk-in freezers and gobble down a sirloin steak or a juicy piece of gammon before the supervisors noticed, and before we caught frost bite! Oh how we laughed when someone would lock you in a room chilled to minus 20degrees and then go on a break for 30 minutes - such fun was had whilst trying to defrost your hands in a pot of boiling vegetables. However the one lasting memory from my time there was having to make 60kgs of Tuna Mayonnaise, chop 4 million tomatoes and butter 40,000 loafs of bread . All of this put me off airline food forever.
I was doing it as a summer job, but many of the people who worked there were full time, and many of them from my old secondary school - people you wouldn't want to share a lift with, let alone ask them to prepare you a meal. They may of well have been organising delivery's for DHL, assembling jigsaws or preparing walls for painting. Their culinary skills were non existent and their care for the consumers of the food they were cooking wasn't ever considered. So I guess all of this formed a fairly distinct impression on me and one that has meant that i would rather feast on my toe nails than devour a meal prepared with the same thought and passion as a car park ticket is issued.
The reason for blogging about this is due to an occurrence on a recent flight where the 'flight attendant' became very insistent that I feed on her plastic tray of delights. My refusal (politely) to accept the meal being forced into my face turned the whole world order into disarray for her, she could not and refused to understand that someone would not want to eat the delicacies she was offering. After several members of staff calmed her down, and explained that not everyone may want to chew on her delights, I was allowed to continue my self imposed fasting. I cant imagine that these people get some kind of bonus for force feeding passengers, but then i cant understand why i am always the only person not to eat on a flight? It cant be hunger? I am sure most people can survive the majority of short haul flights they travel on without food? Is it just a standard reaction or response when someone tries to throw a plastic tray at you, and you accept it regardless of being hungry or not? or is it a case of believing that 'you paid for it, and therefore you will eat it?' maybe you expect there to be a surprise, and the airline has listened to its customers and kept is simple, rather than thinking exotic must mean it will be good!
I have never held to the fact that just because something is 'free', you should take it. I love good food, and insist on eating food that i enjoy, tastes good and provides an experience rather than just 'fuel'. Airline food doesn't meet with any of these criteria, and therefore in most cases I choose not to eat it. The only exception is when I am very hungry or in any normal circumstances - its the normal time to eat (eating breakfast, lunch or dinner at the appropriate times rather than at convenient times for the airline staff), and each time I do it is unsatisfying and results in being fuel rather than food. The other exception is of course when I am lucky enough to be travelling on a long haul flight in Business Class, real crockery, real food and plenty of alcohol all help to ensure you can at least make out what passes for food, which isn't bad considering it was made several days ago by people who gained a certificate in catering from the local McDonalds!
Whilst I'm here, and just to show my ranting isn't just about airline food. Why should I close the window blind on a day flight? Don't get me wrong flying during the evening I also like a snooze, and the distraction of laser piercing light via the crack in the thin shield of plastic covering our only connection with the outside world can interrupt this. However when I board a plane at 10.00am and fly 10 hours arriving in my destination in the afternoon(local) time, I want to feel like I haven't slept for 10 hours - so I can go to bed at a normal local time and wake up at a normal local time!
The conversation goes something like;
"Can I shut the blind for you sir?",
"Why do I look like I don't understand how it works?"
"But we would like to prepare the cabin for everyone to have a rest"
"I'm actually enjoying watching the fantastic scenery from up so high"
"But Sir many of the other passengers would like to get some sleep"
"But it's 1.30pm in the afternoon! What's wrong with them? Are they from Mexico or Greece?"
"Sir your open window blind is stopping people from sleeping"
"Why don't they use the eye patches you provide in the lovely little amenity packs then?"
"Can I shut the blind for you sir?"
And so the conversation goes on in circles until one of us gives in.
The insistence by cabin crew to force everyone to sleep during a flight regardless of the time really infuriates me, of course if everyone is asleep they can stick their own feet up, and don't have to pander to those on flights who feel they own a piece of flight attendants ass, but please stop treating us all as ignorant first time flyers. On a day flight I want to stay up as long as possible, do some work, watch a movie, write a blog, but most of all catch some jet lag busting UV rays from the window I'm sitting next to. Just as if I was at home on a Sunday afternoon watching a movie after a good lunch and a glass of Pinot, I may doze and nod off for a hour - I wouldn't expect anyone to rush around and pull the lounge curtains and put a blanket over me.
Advice to the un-iniciated, if your long haul flight means that you land in the evening at your place of destination - try and stay awake, so that when you arrive you can fall asleep as if you had lived there all your life, if of course you flight will land in your destination during the morning, try and get some sleep during the flight - feeling bright and breezy for when you land will mean that you get to enjoy a full extra days sightseeing/business before when arriving.
Rant over time to catch some zzzzzzzzzs