Onion Chips on the Plane: A Horror Story

I recently had the privilege of enjoying several international flights. International flights often come with the promise of a free meal or two, and sometimes wine, if we’re lucky.  On these past few flights, I’ve eaten my pre-packaged airplane meal without complaint, saving my food criticism tendencies for when I wasn’t 50,000 feet elevated above any Zagat recommended restaurants. Mushy lasagne made from frozen ravioli and individually wrapped rolls with “buttery spread”  are not my usual fare of choice, but part of the allure of travel is experiencing the uncomfortable, or maybe just the unpreferable.

Whatever sadist put these on a plane should be appropriately punished

Whatever sadist put these on a plane should be appropriately punished

However, on a recent flight from Paris to New York, I was dismayed to find that our evening meal was a pre-packed ham and cheese sandwich with a box full of, well, junk food. Do apples and bananas not travel well on planes?  The absence of fresh food on most airlines has always puzzled me.

As I pawed through the flimsy box to see if anything in there was remotely edible, I was pleased to find a not so tiny bag of potato chips.  Crisps, yay! I was so happy I wanted to tweet my excitement, but alas, I was all alone on an airplane crossing the Atlantic.

Out of habit, I flipped over the bag to read the ingredient list (I used to do this religiously when I kept Kosher, and I still like to know exactly what’s in what I’m consuming).  Ingredients in these particular chips included onion powder and dehydrated onions, as well as cream powder.  Cream powder?!  Like milk fat that’s dried and put on a deep fried potato. Ew.

Upon close inspection, I realized that the bag of chips was not merely chips, but Onion Flavored Chips.  Anyone who has ever eaten anything knows that Onion Flavored anything stinks.  And anyone who has ever been on a plane (which I hope the crew and caterers of my flight had before my trip) knows that smells don’t escape an enclosed area with 8-hours of recycled air.

Onion Flavored Chips.  I now had every angry things to tweet, but again, 50,000 feet elevation.  I tucked them into my box along with the sandwich and silently cursed the fact that I’d be eating raisins for dinner.

One by one, the bags started opening, and the crunching of the chips started drowning out Thor, the in-flight movie on this now decrepit flight.  And as the crunching continued, the stench began.  Within minutes, the entire aircraft smelled like an onion farm, in which half of the onions had been minced and chopped and forgotten about in a giant pile of dehydrated cream.  Not only did the popping open of each bag release a disgusting smell into the thin air, but each passenger slowly got a more vibrant form of onion breath with each crunchy bite.

I rushed to the bathroom to hopefully escape the stink for a few minutes.

It says a lot about a food when you have to run to an airplane bathroom to escape it.

Even with the traditional cart of tea and coffee following “dinner”, the onion aroma barely disappeared.  The rest of the flight was an exercise in inhaling and exhaling, convincing myself not to eat all of my Duty Free chocolates in order to eliminate at least some of the culinary awfulness that was this flight.

Of course, I survived the flight and was able to sate my appetite afterwards, but the experience left me with truly negative feelings towards in-flight cuisine, and chips.  If you’re in charge of travel meals for any airline, I beg of you, please hold off the onion chips.  We will all thank you.

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