Wednesday, November 16, 2016

On Vegetarian Meals

"Nothing bad ever happens to a writer. It's all material." ~ Garrison Keillor

>Etihad Airways, in-flight somewhere between DC and Abu Dhabi.

Perhaps it's pure pragmatism that they give the vegetarian entree as a default to anyone who is asleep when the cart comes around. Part of me wonders if it's also because sleeping people don't object.

After surfacing from a fitful half sleep, I'm pleased to notice that a tray has appeared in front of me. I am less pleased to gradually realize that the questionable smell troubling the cabin (and my dreams) is emanating in part from my tray. Nonetheless, spurred on by a nagging hollow in my stomach and Mr. Hooten's admonition that "food is fuel", I peel back the foil to find...trouble. Breakfast appears to consist of okra and malice, with henchmen of shredded vegetables that seem to have been "cooked" without specifying a particular mode of cooking.

Blinking back bleariness, I conclude that this is probably not actually intended as breakfast (time zones being what they are), but then, I've never asked myself what breakfast is in the UAE. Still, I assume the mini Hershey bar accompaniment is not part of a balanced breakfast in any country.

I don't consider myself a picky eater, but running a serious sleep deficit and with a case of cotton mouth, this was rough sledding. After extracting the white rice and making a game stab at the vegetables, I declared defeat and looked for an exit strategy. I suspected I was in good company when I noticed that my seat mate had set his aside after opening each of the dishes but doing little more than pushing them around. This impression was confirmed as I pantomimed to ask if I could set my plate on his in the unused the middle seat. He reacted initially with a look of alarm when he thought I was offering him mine, which turned to bewilderment when he thought I was asking if I could have his uneaten portion.

We piled the dishes in the middle and shared a world weary shrug that made me wonder if every language has a phrase for "Eh, can't win 'em all".

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