Vegan Dining at 40,000 Feet

Vegan Dining at 40,000 Feet

Should your hopes for satisfying veg sustenance fly out the window? Our intrepid traveler investigates.


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My 14-hour flight from DC to Tokyo provides me plenty of time to compare pre-ordered vegan meals to standard tray table fare. First I create teams: On one side sit the carnivores, which I affectionately call Carnies. On the other Veginistas. Viva la rutabaga!

Our first entrées are hand-delivered, much to the anguish of the guy sitting in 32G. Couscous quivers next to a simple salad, a chocolate-chip cookie, and Rubschlager—slices of rye so dry they would make the Sahara cry. My wife receives a bland orzo-bean medley in a mystery sauce, salad, and a frail lemon cookie. As I wash down the sweaty-sock infused couscous with Japanese beer, the flight attendant quizzes the Carnies with chicken or beef. Both come with a salad, moist brownie, and a roll with margarine. Carnies 1, Veginistas 0.

Anxiously, we wait for lunch. Like VIPs, we’re served first again; I feel a pair of eyes burn into my sideburns, so I turn and cast an unreciprocated smile to 32G. My snack contains white rice with pineapples, green peas, and raisins along with more dry bread. My wife is served a Mexican salad and pita bread (dry, of course). Both snacks are fresh and relatively tasty. Fifteen minutes later the Carnies are given plastic cups of high-sodium Ramen Noodles! To add insult to injury, they wait 10 minutes for boiling water. Carnies 1, Veginistas 1.

It all comes down to the last supper. My tray holds soggy-but-savory roasted potatoes, fruit, and a cinnamon doughnut. My wife gets barley with spinach, carrots, and mushrooms; fruit and a sweet, dry bread roll we interpret as dessert. Not a slam-dunk. I nervously cast a glance over to 32G. Ten minutes later he receives his choice of chicken with rice or beef lasagna, both of which look uninspired. Carnies 1, Veginistas 2.

Victory! Or is it? On a long flight, airline food is seldom a perfect choice. However, vegetarian meals do tend to be lighter, healthier, and easier to swallow—as long as you remember to sneak some margarine on board for all that dry bread!

Airline Fare
The indistinguishable, mystery blob trying to pass for vegan lasagne on that long-haul flight to Buenos Aires doesn’t encourage sky-high dining. But, as vegetarianism continues on its trendy path, several airlines are debunking the stigma of meat-free airplane fare. Here’s what veg looks like at 30,000 feet:

Aeroflot: Pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and chickpeas, mixed salad bowl, fresh fruit cup, small cake, and baguette.

American Airlines: Tofu sautéed with onions and peppers over rice, green salad, roll, and vegan dessert.

Air China: Sautéed vegetables with white rice, roll, side salad with baby corn and tomato, and dessert.

Continental Airlines: Samosas with saffron rice, roll, green salad, and apple cake.

Czech Airlines: Baked potatoes, steamed carrots and peas, whole-grain bun, fruit, and a side of fresh veggies.

Hawaiian Airlines: Vegetarian meatloaf with green salad and a roll.

United Airlines: Fried potatoes with peppers and onion, fruit salad, and a vegan cinnamon doughnut.

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