Aeroplane cuisine – it’s a love-hate relationship, but one thing is for sure: it’s a beautiful blend of history and science. As a passionate traveller, I’ve had my fair share of aeroplane food over the years, from European to transatlantic flights, to far-flung destinations in Asia and Australia.
Nowadays, as a mom of three young children, I prefer to pack my own food for our travels, but I still marvel at the incredible feat of engineering that is old-school in-flight dining. With strict safety regulations, weight and space considerations, and the logistics of air travel, feeding passengers in the air is no easy task.
A Glamourous History
But did you know that the first recorded in-flight meal was served on a Handley-Page flight from London to Paris in 1919? These pre-packed lunch boxes were sold for three shillings each, and the idea caught on as long-haul flights became more popular in the 1930s. Initially, chewing gum was given to passengers to prevent airline sickness, but soon, warm nuts and cold fried chicken made their way onto menus.
By the 1950s and 1960s, flying became the epitome of glamour and luxury. With the introduction of jet planes and convection ovens, meals became more efficient and high-end. Economy class meals no longer featured six dishes on a tray, and service became quicker. Instead, passengers enjoyed silver service, Champagne, caviar, roast cuts of meat, fillet steaks, and fresh fruit salads. The ice cream bombe, a dessert originally created by culinary genius Escoffier for Queen Victoria’s jubilee, was also served, using dry ice to create the flambé effect.
In modern first-class flights, dining is not just about the taste, but also about the sensory experience. Airlines have been experimenting with different techniques to enhance the dining experience, including using nasal sprays to activate the olfactory epithelium and noise-cancelling headphones to block out unwanted noise. But why stop there? Enter sonic seasoning, the art of pairing sound and music with taste to create a multi-sensory dining experience.
Chef Hueston Bleumental was one of the pioneers of sonic seasoning, and it is believed that low-frequency sounds can add bitterness to food, while higher frequencies can make foods taste sweeter. British Airways even created a 13-song playlist to accompany their in-flight dining experience, with each song chosen to enhance the flavours of the dish.
In-flight, Delivered to Your Door
If you’re missing in-flight meals and the mini-everything that comes with it, fear not! In-flight meals have become a market of their own, with companies like Tamam Kitchen in Israel and the inflight caterer owned by Garuda Indonesia offering their meals for low-cost delivery.
And if that’s not enough, you can always turn to inflightfeed.com for reviews of onboard dining or check out YouTube for first-class flight experiences from around the world. The possibilities are endless, and I’m happy to go down that rabbit hole for you.
All of this history and innovation has led to the aeroplane food we know today, and while I may pack my own meals now, I still appreciate the creativity and skill that goes into creating a delicious in-flight meal.