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Inflight Special Meals

The Asian Vegetarian Meal — My Go-To on Air Canada
The Asian Vegetarian Meal — My Go-To on Air Canada

I wasn’t born into vegetarianism. For the first few years of my life, I ate meat and fish. By age five my Dad decided that his time of being a carnivore was up and he shifted to being an, what I would later learn is called, ovo–lacto vegetarian. For the uninitiated:

An ovo–lacto vegetarian (or lacto-ovo vegetarian) is a vegetarian who does not eat meat, but does consume some animal products such as eggs and dairy. A typical ovo–lacto vegetarian diet can include fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, herbs, roots, fungi, milk, cheese, yoghurt, kefir, and eggs.

Today eating out as a “veggie” is relatively easy and the options endless — a far cry from my youth. However, whilst the high street is a relatively safe zone one area that continues to baffle me is in-flight meal ordering.

Now, I realise that this is a true first world problem. Food issues at 35,000 feet aren’t a real problem but nevertheless, it’s, mildly, interesting and I have a fairly useful hack to share with you.

For many years I simply selected the “ovo–lacto vegetarian” without really questioning the other options. Whilst it was great getting served first my delight at the prospect of a feed often turned to my neighbour and I trying to identify the items on the tray. Here’s a typical scenario:

Starter

You’ll probably be safe eating the single piece of, what you assume is, radicchio accompanied by a frozen, always frozen, baby tomato and a slice of dried cucumber. You may get dressing but this is rare. The bread roll is often a safe bet — however, you’ll often get a wholemeal roll in place of the fresher white offering and butter will be replaced by low–fat spread. You’d be forgiven for thinking that being vegetarian equates to being healthy — trust me this is not the case.

Main Course

The “ovo–lacto vegetarian” main course is always a gamble. Sometimes it’s the standard issue pasta with a blob of red sauce. Other times it’s a bespoke “special” — again, often unidentifiable.

Dessert

Finally, we come to dessert and coffee. I take coffee with milk, or cream, not some odd milk powder. I also eat chocolate. By the time I’ve pondered whether to eat the dessert offering my neighbours meal has arrived. By this point, they are smug, smug as they have a beautifully formed pot of Gu sat proudly on their tray. Looking over the grin widens as they see my little pot of fruit!

As I said earlier this really isn’t a true problem. I love flying and relish the opportunity for a few connectivity free hours in the air. Most flights are short enough that food isn’t even on the menu and of course you can always buy a snack airside to take on the plane.

The Hack

But if you are like me and look forward to an in-flight meal then I have a small piece of advice for you. When ordering your “special meal” consider choosing the “Asian vegetarian” option.

Here’s why:

In other words, it’s a great option for those of us who just don’t “eat meat or fish”. And of course, you’ll get served first — even in economy. This is especially useful when taking red eye flights. Being able to eat within the first 30 minutes means you can max out your sleep time.

Learn your Meals

If you are baffled by acronyms when ordering here’s a handy guide lifted from Happy Cow:

If you’d like to hear more about in-flight food I recommend the recent episode of Mastication Nation which delves into details on why foods taste a certain way in the air, the myths of being 35,000 feet drunkeness, why we are served breakfast in the middle of the night and much more.

So fellow vegetarians give it a go — next time choose the “Asian vegetarian” option and see how you fare!

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