You can take the Ethicurean out of Berkeley…

…but that doesn’t mean she won’t still be obsessed with the same things.

We flew the Dutch airline KLM to Amsterdam, and I was fascinated by the various meals we were given on the plane. For example, our dinner (right) came with the following exhortation:

Food for thought
Every day we are inspired. Inspired by the people who fly with us, from all over the world. Inspired by the destinations we fly. Inspired by the people who work for us. Every day people are inspired by us. Inspired by our crew on the ground and in the air. Inspired by the art of flying and the service we provide. We select our food carefully to inspire you. Be inspired!

A smiling face is half the meal!
Latvian proverb

Now, I don’t expect much from airline food, and normally I wouldn’t bother complaining about it. I pack my own food because I know from experience that eating this stuff causes my digestive system to come to a grinding halt. But told to be inspired by gluey pasta with rancid spaghetti sauce and a lonely piece of zucchini? by a brick of corn starch and sweeteners pretending to be an apple cake-thing? What’s the point? Who thinks up this shit? And who pays them for it?

The couscous was sort of edible, I’ll give them that. And the New Zealand chardonnay was not bad.

Breakfast provided more "food for thought." A muffin with fake grill marks filled with rubbery egg was accompanied by a box from Immaculate Baking Company, whose tagline "Soul-cially Responsible Goodness" made my gorge rise instantly. It contained a sickeningly sweet purple yogurt (nonfat milk with corn syrup, plus high-fructose-corn-syrup oatmeal) and Organic Kids Doohickeys, which are:

A Better Cookie(TM) for Kids!

• 100% Organic (Better for you and the planet!)
Low in Saturated Fat
• NO Transfats and NO GMOs!
• Pure and Simple Ingredients
(No hunkahydroxapolyfakes!)
• SB19 Compliant
(What’s that? SB-19 is a California law limiting the amount of fat and sugar in foods served by their school system)

Then there’s some stuff about Immaculate Baking Company, and how they support, nurture, and celebrate creativity, as is patently evident in the copy for their packaging. Socially responsible, blah blah blah. Eat a cookie, save the planet. OK, given the choice between an organic cookie with tapioca syrup and brown sugar and all recognizable ingredients, and one with HFCS and unpronounceable preservatives, I’ll take the former. But I don’t need a big fat corporate pat on the back for doing so. It’s a cookie, for chrissakes, not planting a tree or adopting a polar bear, although I’m sure the company does those too.

This is not Real Food. Real Food doesn’t have to talk to you into eating it, like a desperate con man. Real Food is the strong, silent type.

I was very curious as to whether KLM served the Immaculate Baking Company products on all its flights, or just the ones out of San Francisco airport, but when I asked our lovely flight attendant, she didn’t know. I guess I’ll find out on the way home. Have any of you guys flown KLM overseas from elsewhere and gotten this box, too, or are they just pandering to us Bay Area LOHAS consumers? We are, after all, the hot marketing segment now: Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability.

Soon I’ll write about some of the fun food-related experiences I’ve been having in and around the Hague in Holland — later. It looks like the thunderstorm has finally let up and we’re going to head out.

I leave you with this carton of apple juice. Packaged in Florida, the apple juice concentrate comes from the USA, Argentina, Chile, China, Germany, and Turkey. Perhaps it should actually read "or," meaning the juice is sourced wherever apples happen to be cheapest, but regardless, it’s quite the petroleum-drenched melting pot for a humble cup of juice.

4 Responsesto “You can take the Ethicurean out of Berkeley…”

  1. steph says:

    As everything was labeled in English, your plane was provisioned in San Francisco. I’ve never gotten anything so interesting on a plane where the food came from Schiphol.

  2. Peter aka Nosher of the North says:

    I think KLM sources its food from wherever the flight leaves from. They probably have staff that source and sign cintracts with companies to provide meals for them.

    In December 2005 I took a KLM flight from Montreal to Amsterdam and here is what they served:

    It was along the same lines as what you got, but the marketing angle wasn’t so Ethicureanized.

    I also bring my own food on planes!

  3. Corn Maven says:

    I noticed that when I travelled by plane to — and tourista bus in — Argentina last winter, we were served jam containing HFCS. However, everywhere else we dined, HFCS was not on any label, replaced by good ol’ sugar (azúcar).

    Even though GMOs have made it to Argentina, I was glad to see that HFCS has not become mainstream there.

  4. Jillian Burt says:

    I had an even more nerve-wracking experience on a Virgin Blue flight from Melbourne to Sydney over the weekend. I got the feeling that all of life is “branded content”. The airplane felt like it was one of those glass fronted machines that dispense soda, candy and potato crisps when you put money in. Nothing was free.
    There was pay t.v. on the back of the seat back, advertising stuff. The ‘branded content’ airline magazine advertising more stuff. There’d even been Barney the Dinosaur playing on the t.v. set in the departure lounge (with the world of Barney merchandise plugged during the breaks, no doubt.)
    The “a la cart” (get the pun) menu had the brand logo’s displayed, and it sold mostly pre-packaged instant food: Carman’s muesli, Toblerone and Mars snack bars, Ritz crackers and Pringles, Brook Farm soups, Nescafe instant coffee. Never mind that none of these are Australian companies. The only Australian things were Yalumba wines and Victoria Bitter beer.
    The Australian celebrity chef, Neil Perry, consults on the food for Qantas.
    The website says that he procures “real” food from wherever the planes take off from, bread from the La Brea Bakery in L.A., for instance. And the business and first class lounges and in flight meals are closer to the catered experiences that approximate restaurant meals, than packaged foods.
    But a friend of mine took an international flight, coach, on Qantas recently and said that the meal was much as Bonnie described hers to be. That if she’d taken the Neil Perry brand labels off the salad dressing, etc. that it would have been indistinguishable from any other manufactured in flight meal.