These dainty, foil covered goodies are placed lovingly in our laps, as we rocket across the sky in seemingly impossible gravity-defying metal capsules. They are placed by the busy octopus-like arms of air hostesses, as we hover over the Nile Delta or Vladivostok at 4 am.
The ‘haves’ in first and business class get Mozart piped directly into their salmon crostinis and drink gold flecked Moët and Chandon. While the ‘have nots’ in economy class whinny and bellow in their tiny pens, alarmed by the cattle prods.
The fact that we see these technological marvels are a mediocre and functional part of our lives makes them all the more fascinating for close study. Inside of the cabin, safely tucked into a wormhole of fluorescent light, priests of the sky minister to us and always appearing unhurried and reassuring. Yet they practice this same poise and pose again and again for each row of served passengers. The faultlessness of the repeated gesture is suspicious.
A glimpse at Airline Meals is a startling glimpse into the class divisions of society. The ‘haves’ in first and business class get Mozart piped directly into their salmon crostinis and drink gold flecked Moët and Chandon. While the ‘have nots’ in economy class whinny and bellow in their tiny pens, alarmed by the cattle prods. They feel trapped and get leg cramps. Some airlines serve cold tripe and baby aardvark vomit, followed by a side dish of fossilised conga eel. At least that’s what it looks like! A word of advice, if you do ever have the pleasure of flying China Southern or China Eastern, be sure to pack platform heels into your carry on. These are necessary to avoid the ankle-deep piss in the toilet that swishes in homage to the gods of the four directions. Ahoy there matey!
Dismal by nature, airline food is given a sheen of ecstatic relief when it’s put into its sky-high context. People are ushered into a tea decanter-sized capsule and ordered to stay there for 20 hours. Like faithful citizens of earth, we do so. All terrestrial rituals are left behind, and it seems that so are our discerning taste buds. Given the chance to experience the strange ritual of eating airline food; what we actually eat ceases to be important. It’s the ritual that captures the imagination. It’s a bump in the monotony. The presentation, eating and disposal of the food is a monumental cornerstone of the journey. Suddenly a 50 x 50 x 50 mm cube of tasty cheese, a flaccid piece of iceberg lettuce and a water cracker take on a transcendental quality.
Often it’s within these unexpected and mundane things that we can find a strange beauty…