Leaving on a Jet Plane
February 26th, 2010 by Nancy

It’s pouring rain outside. Again.beach scene 4

I love Eugene, and I’m a Northwest native (“Clan of the webbed toes”) so rain doesn’t really register most of the time, but after a spate of gardening last weekend I’m getting a bit fed up with February, and March is threatening to march in this weekend looking suspiciously similar to it.

I concede that I have nothing, comparatively speaking, to complain about. You East Coasters are having a winter for the record books and the most recent storm means that many of you can’t even see this post because the power is out, and I really, truly, feel for you.  Weather over there has gone from “inconvenient” to “Dorothy’s house just flew by the front window,” and you are all in our thoughts and prayers.

Nobody on either coast, then, would fault any of us for daydreaming about warmer, drier climes.

Getting to those locales is weighing heavy on my mind, though. Notwithstanding the cost (both financial and environmental), we all know the real truth: food on airplanes is mostly pretty wretched stuff. To add insult to injury, now we have to spring for it.

I was pondering this dilemma awhile back, and my wool-gathering turned from the destination to the journey, and what, exactly, I’d pack in my Lunchsense lunchbox for the trip.  I realized I had a few constraints, as follows – all the food would have to be:

1) Relatively non-perishable since the FSA would confiscate the ice pack (although we CAN pack ice in the drink bottle, then dump it out before boarding the plane, then get more ice on board, if absolutely necessary);
2) Lacking in any liquids or gels in quantities over 3 oz.;
3) Free of un-neighborly foods like allergens (i.e. nuts) or really aromatic stuff like, oh, limburger; and most of all
4) A meal that will be the utter envy of my cabinmates. A meal that will make the security guards that x-ray the lunch box stop the machine and stare in awe. A meal that will have passengers climbing over seat backs to get at it.

I realized at this point I needed professional help.

I needed a chef.

Enter good friend Andy Roybal, who took my constraints and weighed in with this response:

I would not worry about the temperature control because food has a 4 hour window in which it is safe and you would want some of the items to come up to room temp for better flavor.
The menu:
Rice is out because cold rice sucks but I would do Inari Nigiri – Sweet Rice wrapped in Fried Tofu Skins, it is normally served cold and three pieces would fit nicely into one of your containers. Along with that I would have a container of Soba Noodle Salad (again served cold) with julienne Green Onion, Carrot, Cucumber, and Red Pepper in a Soy-Ginger Dressing. Then you need some veggies… Soy Beans to the rescue! Edamame seasoned with Hawaiian Sea Salt, Toasted Sesame Seeds and Sesame Oil would be a nice. Here are a few more ideas… no harm in more vegetables, so let’s add a small side of Seaweed Salad available at most Asian stores already prepared. If you still have room… some home made Teriyaki Chicken would be nice… you can eat it cold and that rounds out your meal with a bit of protein. You do get to bring on 3 oz of liquid, so in the small salad dressing container, I would fill it with some Sake!

That would be my meal. I hope that helps… if you don’t like that one I was thinking of a Middle Eastern Lunch of Falafel, Hummus, Baba ghanoush, Tabbouleh, Yogurt Sauce and lots of Pita Bread.

Thank you, Andy. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

(Aside to Andy: The last line about kills me – “if you don’t like that one…” Oh fer heaven’s sake, Andy, have you FLOWN lately? Do you know what you’re up against?)

Can’t you see it? You get on the plane with your tidy little lunchbox, and about midflight when your cabin mates are prying the plastic wrap off their nine-dollar “club sandwiches” and trying to discreetly open little mayonnaise packets with their teeth you pull this feast out, smooth your cloth napkin (included) on your lap, smile graciously to them, and dig in?

So – what would you pack?

To all of us – hang in there, spring’s just around the corner. In the meantime, I’m going to daydream about warmer, drier, beautiful places. Like Eugene in August.

p.s. Stay tuned – Andy says he’ll come up with recipes for the goods above.

p.p.s. And if dreaming about good food isn’t enough, slide on over to foodgawker for a visual, virtual orgy of good food AND good photography.

5 Responses  
Nora writes:
February 26th, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Do please ask Andy for the recipes for both meals! I want to pack those next time I fly. With my blood sugar issues, I need proper meals, and those sound de-LISH. :)

Nancy writes:
February 26th, 2010 at 11:12 pm

I will ask him, although I think you just did….Andy? Are you out there?

Andy writes:
March 3rd, 2010 at 11:20 am

Yes, I am here! Sorry, it has been very busy in the restaurant this week.

Ok… The Inari Nigiri, Edamame and Seaweed Salad can be picked up at a store that does daily sushi counter… maybe try Market of Choice. I would then take the Edamame and season them with toasted sesame seed, a teaspoon of sesame oil and a pinch of sea salt.

For the Teriyaki Chicken: 2 skinless chicken breasts or thighs, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar (Splenda if you are diabetic), 1/4 cup light soy, 1 tablespoon Asian Chili Sauce, 1 clove garlic minced, 1/2″ pc of ginger minced. Mix the last 5 ingredients together and marinate the chicken overnight. Either grill or oven roast the chicken until it is no longer pink in the middle – internal temp of 165 degrees to kill off all the bad bacteria. Slice chicken on the bias and garnish with a little chopped green onion. Done.

The soba noodle salad is one of my favorites. 1 pack of soba noodles, 1/4 cup julienne green onions, 1/2 cup julienne of each: carrots, red peppers, cucumber. Cooking is fun so don’t limit yourself. If you like Shitake mushroom or broccoli add that as well! Dressing: 1/4 cup Light Soy, 1/4 cup Rice Vinegar, 1/8 cup sugar or Splenda, 2 Tb. sesame oil, 1 minced clove of garlic and 1/2 cup canola oil. Mix together, taste and balance the dressing to your tastes. If you like it spicy add a pinch of chili sauce. This will yield a cup of dressing; you will not need it all, it will keep in the refrigerator for your next meal.

Boil you noodle per the direction on the package, drain and rinse. Cool noodles and mix with veggies, lightly dress the salad. If you like put your Teriyaki Chicken over the salad to make it a heartier meal.

And don’t forget the Sake! Good luck.

Nancy writes:
March 3rd, 2010 at 11:38 am

Thanks a million – these look great, and easy enough for just about anybody!

Giulia writes:
October 7th, 2010 at 10:57 am

Ok, I’m not neither a chef, nor a mom, just a young person creating her own activity in computer assistance Linux in two words).

Some ideas from France, my country :
- a salad of pasta with pasta, tomatoes, and ricotta. You put the olive oil in the salad dressing container. Add a fruit and a yoghurt, a perfect plane meal which is not liquid, doesn’t smell and doesn’t need ice.
Rice and potatoes salad can also work.

- Two salty mini cakes and a sweet one. With some water, it’s a perfect meal while flying :)

Any other ideas are welcome :)

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