I know that when thinking about memorable meals and traveling, it usually conjures up images of crammed night markets with all manner of protein on the grill in Souteast Asia, or a steaming, gooey pot of cheese fondue in the Alps, or a romantic candle-lit Mediterranean dinner overlooking the ocean...but I've also got some vivid memories of air "fare" - and not all of them are horrendous.

I'll never forget the first time I did a solo backpacking trip to Europe and was given a gift of enough air miles to fly first class!  I flew Alitalia and, let me tell you, they fed me nonna-style:  constantly.  And it was divine.  And that was AFTER I had spent three weeks in Italy eating some of the freshest most amazing food I'd ever tasted.  To this day, every time I step on a plane I have my fingers crossed that we'll be served some of that delicious pasta.

Or the time I took a short-haul flight on Air Canada during Oktoberfest season and had a tasty sausage and spaetzle meal.  It took me years of asking my German friends what that "kinda crunchy, tiny, kinda pasta-y" dish was.  I now own a spaetzle maker, thank you very much.  I know what you're all thinking: "Food - a HOT meal - on a short-haul flight??  No, no, my friend. You are mistaken."   Trust me, it was nearly 15 years ago when times were good. 

I realize that those two experiences may be unbelievable exceptions to the rule, but last month when we flew to Vietnam on Air Canada, we experienced a new low in air "fare".  The first leg of our journey was a 15 hour, non-stop flight from Toronto to Hong Kong.  We departed at 10am and about an hour in, they served lunch. 

My 1 year old son, who is a fantastic eater, gobbled his with gusto. I sat back and began to relax, thinking that the next 12 hours or so would be just fine if the rest of our meals were like that.  A few hours later the flight attendants started wheeling out their carts and I heard them say to the passengers across the aisle "Soup and sandwich?" Huh.  Soup on a plane?  An odd choice, I thought, but JR was getting antsy so the timing was perfect.  Just then, the flight attendant looked over at me, with JR on my lap and as I nodded to her,  she gingerly placed a . . . CUP NOODLE . . . on my tray. Um, I was about to object, but honestly, what choice did I have?  Now, I know I didn't pay as much as the people in Business Class, but over-processed, MSG-laden Cup Noodles in a styrofoam cup?! The same Cup Noodles that desperate university students by at the dollar store?? I was handed a pair of chopsticks and left to my own devices.  My son thought me trying to feed him impossibly long, curly noodles while he sat on my lap was a riot.  So too did my fellow passengers when he started wearing the noodles. Meanwhile,  I was silently outraged and furiously wrote a strongly worded letter to the CEO in my head. 
The opposite of Cup Noodles.
Now, I'm not expecting filet mignon in my economy seat or anything.  But is it really too much to ask that a little thought and consideration go into menu planning?  It would seem to me that serving hot broth, filled with noodles and questionable "meat" products in a large styrofoam cup to people squeezed in to a very tight space would not be a good idea for obvious reasons, not to mention the complete lack of nutritional value and the horrible taste.

I would have loved to pack my own meals, as this NY Times article suggests, but "pack 24 hours worth of meals for two adults and 1 toddler"  just didn't make it on my to-do list...I'll know better for next time!

Misery loves company, as they say, so tell me about your worst air fare!

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