11 May 2009

Gluten free airline meals

Have you ever been excited about plane food? I used to love the anticipation of hearing "chicken or fish?" coming down the aisle of the aeroplane - it signalled the start of new taste adventures in a foreign land. These days having to request a "special diet" for the flight fills me with dread. Gluten free meals are appalling in my experience and I wish that the airlines wouldn't bother.

On a trip to San Francisco last year, we flew for nearly 12 hours and I was kindly provided with a safe gluten free meal... not that I could identify what the hell it was. It looked like pickled artichokes in an insipid tomato sauce, boiled carrots on the side and decorated with black olives. Not a dish I had seen before... and it was gross. Served with a thimble of rice and an inedible rock representing gluten free bread, and the ever so creative dried out fruit salad for dessert this was the only food I was given for the entire flight. When the in flight staff came round with snacks, cakes and sandwiches for ‘normal’ passengers, I had to ask what they had for me. A blank expression told me that I had received my quota of gluten free delicacies and I spent the rest of the flight starving hungry – there was nothing safe for me to eat.

How an airline such as Virgin Atlantic - who I wrote and complained to - can get it so utterly wrong, when new airline Kingfisher gets it so right is an example of the constant contrasts that living in India throws my way.

On an hour’s flight to Jaipur recently with budget Indian airline Kingfisher, we were promptly served a hot meal. Unexpected for such a short flight, I cautiously pulled back the tinfoil lid of the hot dish and to my HUGE excitement it was Indian food! Indian food that I could eat! The roti was served separately in its own tinfoil, thus keeping the whole meal naturally gluten free, and even the chocolate mousse for pudding - was safe to eat too.

Everyone got the same meal – it was good for vegetarians, lactose and gluten intolerant passengers (when opting out of the respective bad bits) and it really was rather good. Indian food benefits greatly from being cooked in advance, allowing the flavours to meld and soften which makes it perfect for in flight meals. Much to the embarrassment of Jack – I took photos to remember this special moment.

Unlike my return flight from San Francisco, where I created a naturally gluten free hamper at the Ferry Building Farmers Market and Whole Foods to avoid passing out in the aisle from hunger, in India I eat well when I travel. In fact I actually look forward to my in-flight meals here!


H.Peter said...

Whenever Victoria flew somewhere for me,I made her oodles of sandwiches and packed GF cakes for teh trip to last as long as the first three days...

The strangest thing is that whenever you order a GF meal from an airline, you get margarine instead of butter....

Kim McGowan said...

I know... how odd is that? And you don't get the naturally gluten free things that other passengers get like YOGHURT!