Would You Like the Chicken, the Fish or the Dead Hamster?

Travel Blog  •  David Farley  •  02.05.09 | 12:20 PM ET

Photo by d’n'c via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Oh, airline food. Always getting the bad rap. We love to hate airline food. The hate brings us together. It’s airplane conversation starter. I might be one of the few people who doesn’t dislike airline food. Consider the context: you’re eating 30,000 feet above the earth. If I were sitting in a Michelin-starred restaurant, eating soggy croquettes out of a tin tray, I’d probably be a bit disappointed. But on a plane I’m captive. Which is why I watch (and actually enjoy) Drew Barrymore movies while I’m flying. I fork the rubbery chicken into my mouth and like it.

Then there’s this guy. The Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer who had had enough. Food, that is. He wrote a scathing—and humorous—letter to Sir Richard Branson, Virgin’s founder and CEO, about his latest meal on the London-to-Mumbai flight. An excerpt after the jump.

“Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat their with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about. Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing. That’s how I felt when I peeled back the foil.”

Unless dead hamsters get your taste buds salivating, the letter writer’s point is clear. He wasn’t thrilled with his food. I was recently on a Mumbai-bound flight, too. It wasn’t Virgin. I was on Jet Airways, flying first from JFK to Brussels and then Brussels to Mumbai. And I was actually quite thrilled with the edible offerings. OK, full disclosure. It was one of the rare times I’d been upgraded to business class (thanks Silver Elite status). I don’t know how Jet’s food was in economy class, but sitting on a cozy chair (which could recline to a completely flat position) in a little walled space I could call all my own, I was treated to some of the best airline food I’ve ever had. I don’t fly this level of luxury very often, so perhaps this is de rigueur. There were tender grilled lamb chops with potato confit, paprika-sprinkled Moroccan sea bass, and vegetables “napped” in a cashew sauce. And I washed it all down with a deep red from Burgundy—in fact, it was from one of my favorite wine-producing towns, Beaune. 

Perhaps what the above Virgin flyer/angry letter writer really wanted was a future upgrade. After all, Jet could have served me a dead hamster and, perhaps wading in a shallow pool of robust tomato sauce and spiced with green cardamom, I would have totally eaten it.


David Farley

David Farley is the author of An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town and co-editor of Travelers' Tales Prague and the Czech Republic: True Stories. Hes a contributing writer at AFAR magazine and his writing appears in the New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic Traveler, and Gadling.com, among other publications. He teaches writing at New York University.


5 Comments for Would You Like the Chicken, the Fish or the Dead Hamster?

TambourineMan 02.05.09 | 3:06 PM ET

I like the cheeseburgers on Alaska Airlines. I usually order two and wash ‘em down with a couple beers. Hopefully, that knocks me out before the Barrymore movie starts. Sorry Farley, but even in high-altitude captivity, Drew’s crap-fests are unwatchable.

gondola 02.09.09 | 6:06 PM ET

I cant believe that

HypeBoy 02.09.09 | 7:31 PM ET

not the dead hamster

bob 02.09.09 | 8:04 PM ET

hehe

Bee 02.12.09 | 5:57 PM ET

You might as well pack a lunch just for the flight

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