Magazine article The Spectator

Fare in the Air

Magazine article The Spectator

Fare in the Air

Article excerpt

Singular life

Fare in the air

Petronella Wyatt

Where is this deli?' asked the woman passenger next to me of the stewardess with eyes like Adriatic rock pools -- grey and rimmed with thick black. `We are not going to Delhi, madam,' she replied with bureaucratic hauteur. `We are going to Venice.'

'I know,' said the woman passenger. `But where is this deli?' She pointed to the plastic lid of food she had been given. Written across the top were the words `All Day Deli'. `Is this deli in London?' she persisted. `It isn't anywhere,' said the stewardess, barely able to conceal her exasperation. `It's what the food is called now on British Airways.'

`Well, it's horrible,' the woman said. The stewardess was amazed, as if someone had stuffed a live halibut down her regulation jumper. `I'm so unhappy,' she said in a voice trembling with sarcasm.

I looked at my own plastic tub. The stewardess had said it was chicken salad. I could distinguish the salad, a withered leaf or two and a tomato with a face like one of Louis XVI's royal aunts, but where was the chicken? There was a small collection of what appeared to be pink marbles. On prodding one with my fork the exterior gave way to reveal some white flesh - this evidently was the chicken. I put it in my mouth. This turned out to be an error. The thing tasted like an explosive dipped in chilli.

`Hey,' I said to the stewardess after I had spat it out. `That woman was right. This is the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted.' She turned on her heels.

It wasn't the first time. For about six months BA has been producing this `All Day Deli' stuff. I have fond memories of when the food used to be a roll, cheese in a wrapper and a slice of chocolate cake. Then, like the food in the NHS, the economy grub was given a rehaul. You have a choice of two 'ethnic' dishes. One, or both, usually has a mound of cous-cous pressed to the bottom of the plastic tub.

Two elderly English passengers were similarly distressed. `Is this semolina?' asked the wife. `And if so, why does it have peppers in it?' Don't get me wrong - ethnic food is great but not when it is prepared for the economy cabins of British Airways.

I have started taking my own food on board. You can buy potted shrimps at Heathrow and a packet of cut-price smoked salmon. Last week I bought a tin of pate. …

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