posted by Caroline

Back in the day, when I was a childless graduate student flying the red-eye east for the Christmas holidays, airplane food was easy: a theraflu on take-off to knock me out, a sudafed on landing to get me through the day.

But times change. I don’t take many OTC (let alone prescription) meds these days, and with two kids I pack enough food to cover a few meals. I learned on my first flight as a mother, when Ben was just three months old and nursed his way steadily from SFO to JFK, to keep the food coming. Airplane contentment depends on keeping my kids’ mouths full.

We had to abandon the red eye when Ben was about two and the anticipation (and eventual ingestion) of apple juice and animal crackers — snacks he never got at home — kept him from sleeping. Now when we fly east, we travel by day, rousing the kids before breakfast, feeding them smoothies and bagels at the airport, and then sushi and snacks on the plane.

Yes, you read that right: sushi on the plane. We pick up vegetarian sushi from Hotei the night before any long flight. This appeals over other possible snacks because it a) is a treat; b) holds up for hours at room temperature; c) doesn’t have a strong smell to annoy our fellow passengers; d) isn’t messy to eat and e) the accompanying pickled ginger helps keeps stomachs calm. Ben eats spinach rolls, Eli eats tamago, Tony eats avocado rolls, I eat oshinko rolls and the leftovers.

If sushi and a side of edamame doesn’t get us through, we rely on the steady stream of decent snacks from JetBlue: blue potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, roasted almonds, animal crackers. If we’re low on food when we land and need to restock for the two-hour drive to my parents’ house, we’ve discovered that the JetBlue terminal at JFK, though shabby, has excellent vegetarian snacks, from mushroom dumplings to fresh fruit, carrot sticks, yogurt and granola.

Spoiled by JetBlue, we were less well-prepared, then, for our recent flight to Paris. We brought only a five-hour supply of sushi and I didn’t find the British Airways “tuck box,” stocked with individually-wrapped Walkers shortbread biscuits and Cadbury bars, until just before we landed ( of course, I grabbed a handful, which were helpful motivators the first couple days in Paris). We were cranky and hungry when we landed.

By the time we were flying back home, we knew better what to expect on BA and where to get good travel snacks in Paris: our new friend the Monoprix. I will write more about the Monoprix in later posts, but for now, here’s a list of what we bought for the 10+ hour flight:

  • 1 baguette
  • 2 pain au chocolate
  • 2 croissants
  • 2 chewy whole grain rolls, studded with hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds
  • 2 almond butter and raspberry jam sandwiches
  • 5 baby bell cheeses (the last remaining from a 20-pack I’d bought in Paris the week before)
  • 2 palmiers (Eli’s choice)
  • a small package of sugar cookies
  • 1 pint of shredded carrot salad with cranberries (Ben’s choice)
  • 3 pints of farfalle with pesto and pinenuts (Eli’s and Tony’s choice)
  • 1 pint of couscous with cucumber, tomato and mint
  • 1 pint of lentil and bulgur salad
  • 1 package of baby carrots
  • 2 pints of raspberries

Plus, the leftover supply of cashews, raisins, dried cranberries and dried mango (now down to a sandwich-sized ziploc) I’d brought east two weeks earlier. We had the palmiers (not so good after all), the carrot and one of the farfalle salads leftover.

British Airways also fed us twice, and although the boys weren’t interested in the (most excellent) vegetarian moussaka and spicy chickpea salad, Tony and I ate all that, too. And as I’ve already noted, when we got home we needed dinner. Travel makes us hungry.