“Special Meals” – Really?

When we order an airline’s  “Special Meal,” we always hold our breath as we peel back the foil cover- you just never know what’ll be underneath.  We’ve tried Special Meals on many, many carriers and the results are invariably surprising – good and bad. When we fly an airline that caters to a variety of cultural and religious dietary requirements, we each order different “plant-based” meal categories just to see what we’ll get.  But on most airlines, you’re lucky if you find vegetarian – and if vegan is listed, it often becomes all too clear that someone in the food chain doesn’t know what that means.

On Delta, we were served cold assorted steamed vegetables for a salad and the same steamed vegetables hot for our main course – with canned fruit for dessert. On one of Olympic Airs’ last flights, we were served lovely grilled vegetables flanking three breaded rectangular  logs. We poked and prodded – tempeh? seitan?  We finally tasted it – chicken!  I assumed that China Air would be easy (and I didn’t pack the usual carry on) but my meal turned out to be the local JFK caterer’s take on plant-based – not Chinese.  My tray didn’t look like anyone else’s – and the identical food was served for every meal. Edible but disappointing. After 18 hours, I really wished I had packed more than granola bars.

Emirates, one of our favorite airlines, delivers delicious ethnic plant-based meals – along with a really fabulous entertainment system.  Air Mexico is hit or miss – they do vegetarian fine, but cheese and other dairy seems to sneak into everything.  Shorter domestic flights rarely have a veg option – take the meat and cheese off the well-buttered roll and that’s dinner.

We will start logging our meals more carefully – and taking pictures.  If we all do that, then we might effect a difference.  In the meantime, the more food we can carry-on the better. Coming up- “Strategies for Plane Trips.”

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