It’s pouring rain outside. Again.
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.
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.