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Snacks on a Plane

December 16, 2014

Airplane food used to be a tired joke. Dry and and flavorless pieces of chicken breast were served on mushy rice with overcooked vegetables and some kind of salty creamy sauce. The food was mostly terrible to be sure. But at least the airline fed its passengers something resembling food on a multi-hour flight.

The food loving flyer always had clever ways around the crap food. Vegetarian meals were often solid. Hindu meals rocked. I had some great indian bean dishes and even discovered Amy’s veggie loaf for the first time on a plane. Actually, that last in-flight meal was the best preparation of the frozen convenience dish I ever ate.

These days you may have to fly internationally to actually be fed. And hopefully the airline packed enough meals for all those who want them. I recall one flight being totally out of food by the time they got to my seat towards the back of the cabin.

Usually, I’ll eat before or after a flight. Occasionally, I’ll bring something on board. But on my latest journey, I wasn’t expecting to be stuck in the plane waiting for the plows to dig us out, and then waiting even longer in the de-icing queue. By the time the flight attendants were selling snacks, I was famished. I needed food.

As it would turn out, food on a plane is mighty hard to find.

It’s almost all crap. Mini tubes of Pringles, bags of gummy bears, and a list of other refined grains, salty snacks, and sugary treats. There’s precious little food in that food. And I really wanted something to stick to my ribs.

The closest I could find to actual food was the Tapas snackbox. I was so relieved to have found this that I’m not even going to criticize the airline for reinforcing American misconceptions about tapas.

Almonds. Those are real food. Sometimes they can be roasted with industrially produced oils and coated in salt. I love salt, but when trying to stay hydrated on a plane, it’s not your friend. These nuts were all goodness and light – simply 100 calories of pure plain almonds. That’s a good start.

Olives! I love olives. These were pitted Greek green olives with extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, kosher vinegar, thyme and parsley. Salty, yes. But 50 calories of heart healthy fat would help keep me satisfied. Score.

Rosemary crackers. Sure, these are full of white flour, but they only have five ingredients. Woah. Enriched flour, expeller pressed canola oil, olive oil, sea salt and rosemary. Not natural rosemary flavor. Actual rosemary. Bravo.

Peppercorn parmesan cheese spread? Well, they can’t all be winners. I neither want locust bean gum nor guar gum in my cheese. Can’t say I’m crazy about sorbic acid either. Really, I’d just prefer a small piece of Parm-Reg. I don’t know why they can’t make that happen for a $9 box.

Roasted Red Pepper Bruschetta in a plastic sauce cup? It wasn’t all that bad. I was craving vegetables, and this delivered. Sure it had preservatives and was full of salt. But it still felt good about adding another color to the snack that would serve as my dinner.

Lentil crackers carried the non-GMO verified seal. Very cool. The lentil flour is actually the first ingredient, and the dairy that’s used in the crackers is claimed to be rBST-free. I think they meant to say that it came from cows that were not treated with rBST. That is probably more precise. Anyhow, these crackers were beany tasting and had some protein to boot. That was a good thing given my condition.

Wild Garden’s Traditional Hummus Dip was suspicious. Would it actually be hummus? Amazingly, the answer was yes. Chick peas, sesame paste, water, sea salt, spices, and citric acid. Who would have thunk it.

Dessert was the stinker of the box. It was Brookside dark chocolate pomegranate flavor. The chocolate was chocolate, full of cocoa butter and absent of PGPR. But the dark chocolate enrobed two gummy morsels of “pomegranate flavor” that were so sickly sweet and devoid of pomegranate character that I found them to be inedible. So, I simply nibbled the chocolate from the outside and had as nice of a conclusion to this box as I could muster.

All in all, this was shockingly good. Probably it helped that my expectations were just so, so low. And like they say, hunger is the best sauce. But it was refreshing to see so many of the hot button food issues I care about these days, reflected in a selection of snack foods that are a reasonable replacement for a meal.

Sure, there’s a bit of room for improvement. But there almost always is.

One Comment leave one →
  1. December 16, 2014 10:53 am

    What is your issue with guar gum? It is actually supposed to be sort of good for you… What is your issue with sorbic acid? It is a completely safe way to kick up the PH of a food to prevent spoilage. I get your schtick about food, but “no additives in anything” is hogwash. It is odious culinary luddite-ism. You expect an airplane to have a purpose built cheese fridge to maintain the conditions for your parm-reg, eh? Because that makes sense….

    There are plenty of perfectly sound and safe chemicals (all food is chemicals) that are beneficial as additives. Do you object to quick pickles made with acetic acid (vinegar)? You have to draw a line with this “no added stuff in any stuff” thing or it becomes silly.

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