The set of algorithms used to determine which passengers, if any, will be promoted from the confines of coach to the broad berths of rows one through four or six or eight is so filled with exceptions, contingencies and variables that I’m not even sure the fictional Will Hunting could solve the equation. Generally, it seems that an upgrade is about as likely as Matt Damon falling in love with me, i.e. impossible.
Two days ago, against all odds, it happened. The upgrade, not the love.
How do you like them apples? (Or should I say “Take a look at me now”?)
Vastly greater amounts of leg and elbow room, the presence of foot and head rests and a significantly lower passenger to toilet ratio: It’s a different world in the front of the plane.
And so there I was, comfortably reclined, contemplating the vapidity of sports memoirs* and chuckling over a treatise on prescriptive vs. descriptive linguists** by (and re-mourning the loss of) David Foster Wallace in a collection called Consider the Lobster, when I was invited by the flight attendant to actually consider the lobster. As an appetizer, for lunch. On an airplane.
Specifically, “Chilled lobster tail with Dubarry sauce.”
I didn’t know what Dubarry sauce was, but yes, I would have it.
Turns out that it bears a strong resemblance to Thousand Island dressing. It was the kind of thing I could imagine Betty Draper washing down with her third gimlet at some midtown palace. I opted for an inoffensive sauvignon blanc that was repeatedly and generously refilled by a flight attendant.
The lobster was served along with a mesclun salad with vinaigrette. Three kinds of (warm) bread were offered. For my main course I chose the braised short rib of beef with mushroom sauce over the “tamale stuffed chicken breast”, and finished with an ice cream sundae for dessert. With caramel. And whipped cream and nuts and a cherry on top.
Now: At the risk of diminishing whatever small amount of credibility I have established with you and my other seven readers, I will tell you that this was not the worst meal I’ve had in the past week.
It’s non-committal, as far as statements go (“not the worst” is not the most meaningful phrase, is it?) but if I told you where I ate in New York City last week, then the claim that the airplane lunch ranked above at least one of those dinners becomes downright bold.
Let me clarify: Was the food on the airplane good? No, of course not. The lobster didn’t taste like anything, the beef was not very tender, and the caramel was more like “caramel”. But I’ve had far worse catered food (and this is what airplane food is) at weddings for which the host families paid fortunes.
Anyway, I’m not sure how much better a meal prepared in a tiny galley miles up in the sky could be.
Meanwhile, last week in Manhattan, the cooks at the highly regarded, contemporary Italian place where I had dinner sent out hot food on a cold plate, an overcooked egg, and a lukewarm, under-seasoned duck breast on a pile of watery kale.
What’s their excuse?