17-23 July 2015 #767

Flying to eat

Excerpted from Kunda Dixit's column Under My Hat in 61, 21-27 Sep 2001. The column ran from 2000-2006.
Under My Hat
It is a well-established fact of life that airlines and fine dining do not necessarily go together. One does not fly to eat, just as one does not eat to fly -- unless one is oneself personally a fly in which case one flies while eating.

Royal Nepal Airlines is our national fly carrier, and whatever else one may say about it confidentially in adult company after a few drinks, culinary extravagance is not one of them.

There is something about the omelette served on the early morning RA205 shuttle to Delhi that is so sublime it defies description. Obviously, as the Great Helmsman himself instructed, an egg or two had to be broken to make that omelette, but which proportion of what Royal Nepal considers a ‘non-vegetarian breakfast’ is actually the embryo of a fowl yet unborn and which should rightfully belong in the cracker unit of an oil refinery is hard to tell.

In fact it was only after I had eaten halfway through the styrofoam tray while at cruising altitude Somewhere Over the Western Sector that I suddenly realised I was gnawing no more at said omelette but was wolfing down the plastic plate. If I may be so bold as to say so, the receptacle actually tasted more like an egg. And after swallowing the mushroom-and-onion-fluoro-biphenyl hexa-propylene tetrachloride omlette it was hard to keep my tray table stowed and my seat in an uptight position for very long without having to make mad roundtrips up and down the aisle to the fore and/or aft lavatories.

Speaking of eggs, RA hasn’t yet settled which came first: egg or omelette. But being an equal opportunities employer, Royal Nepal is going to strictly monitor poultry farm conditions to ensure that our two-legged feathered friends (be they broilers or layers) enjoy the basic rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration before the time comes for them to be converted into airline food. And here we must also think of the rights of the unborn chicken, viz: the egg.

Chicken rights activists are also rightfully up in arms about fowl language that employs poultry terms like ‘chicken’ when we mean ‘coward’ -- this callously stereotypes the essence of chicken and is an insult to all roosters. Phrases like ‘chick’ are ageist and are used derogatorily to describe young women. ‘Hen-pecked’ is an insult to hendom in general and animal husbandry in particular. Even ‘cocks’ get a raw deal when used to refer unkindly to one’s twinkies. And what of ‘cockpits’, the arenas where warlike roosters with sharp blades tied to their feet are made to fight each other unto death by humans who gamble on the outcome?

I was looking out at Dhaulagiri and musing on all this, when the flight attendant came down the aisle to ask: “Black coffee, white coffee, or black-and-white coffee, sir?” I thought: same difference, yar, why not give it a try.

The fluid that was served had a taste that was hard to pin down with any degree of accuracy. So, when she came around again, I said: “Miss, if that was coffee, give me tea. If it was tea, give me coffee.” That is the great thing about our national flycatcher: it is full of surprises.

It was when the plane had started making its descent into the Indira Gandhi International Airport that the pilot came on the intercom: “Ladies and gentlemen this is your captain speaking from the arena where warlike roosters with sharp blades tied to their feet are made to fight each other unto death by humans who gamble on the outcome. We hope you have enjoyed our in-flight service today, we would like to ask you to stow your tray table for landing. That is, if you haven’t eaten it already.”

Read also:

Jand, raxi or moi, Under My Hat

Chicken soup for the soul, Under My hat

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