When thinking about fine dining, or really even just food that you want to eat, airline meals are not what comes to mind. While most major carriers have done away with meal service on domestic flights, the meals wrapped in foil are still alive and kicking on international routes.
The challenges of preparing and serving food at 30,000 feet places severe limitations on what can be served, however, standard airline meals have come a long way from the slop that used to be served. On a recent transcontinental flight (in coach), my seatmates were given the choice of three different entrees for dinner, and two for breakfast. And all of the different choices looked edible and tasty. I however, wasn’t so lucky.
Airlines are more than willing to accommodate special diets, and in-air kosher meal service goes back decades. In fact, for those who strictly follow the dietary laws, kosher food onboard an airplane is quite simple. On the ground, a local kosher catering service prepares a meal to the airline’s specification, then double wraps and seals the meal. In-flight, the crew then heats the meal and brings it to the passenger, who breaks the seals and wrapping and enjoys (err, eats) their meal. Kosher-keeping passengers are however, at the mercy of these local catering companies, whose food ranges from tasty to rubber.
For breakfast on my recent flight others in my row were enjoying blueberry pancakes, while I was served an “omelette” which could have had a future (or past) life as a jar opener in my kitchen drawer. Dinner wasn’t that much more inspiring. The chicken and mashed potatoes were barely edible, and there wasn’t a vegetable in sight. Both meals came with disgustingly sweet mezonot rolls (so passengers would not need to wash our hands), and completely inedible fruit salad that appeared to have been preserved from the 1960s.
Ultimately, airline caterers need to understand that passengers expect a higher quality of food. If it is possible for the regular meals to be tasty (and have vegetables!) then kosher meals need to meet these standards as well. Kosher meals are the most frequently requested special meal, and caterers and airlines must realize that passengers will expect food of a higher quality.
In the end, my flight wasn’t completely miserable. I brought an ample supply of Pretzel Crisps and Lara Bars, and the empty seat next to me let me stretch out a bit. I am looking forward to future journeys and the promise of better meals just over the horizon.
Daniel Infeld is the Institutional Advancement Associate at Hazon and is glad to be back home after a whirlwind week of international travel.