Radio 4’s consistently intriguing Food Programme covered the topic of airline meals this month. And it was fascinating.
For a potentially dry subject (no pun intended), the team came up with some really intriguing angles: we paid a visit to a factory where components of the meals were made, and heard a managing director and his son discussing the profit margins they were working with, and how this affects the quality/price balance.
The gist was that although the meal providers aimed to bring the freshest, healthiest, most delicious content into aeroplane meals, the prices they had to work with just wouldn’t allow this. It’s always nice to hear someone who seems genuinely decent talking about their struggle to improve things: it’s reassuring to know that they are out there, trying their best, every day.
One of the most interesting offshoots of the discussion was the potential rise of ambient food. This sounds like a very impressive concept at first, until the mystery evaporates as Sheila Dillon helpfully clarifies: “like crisps and nuts”. Ambient food would revolutionise airline meals – which makes you consider how much of our future is reflective of our past.
After all, all food used to be ambient: salted meats, fresh dairy used before it soured, and a cold pantry for those items which we had to at least try to keep cool.