Saturday, February 25, 2006

Fake Plastic Food

(continued from Starvation)

I had been on the plane for four hours and sixteen minutes before the food cart finally came.

My tray table has been folded down even before I saw the food cart come out of the galley. You can hear the clacking of the trays coming down, fast and hard. It was like dominoes or the wave in a football field; you hear one person fold down their tray and everybody else starts folding down theirs. Sound travels faster than the aroma of beef, which came several minutes later.

I almost didn't care what the food was going to be. It was going to be fake and processed even in its afterlife, hermetically sealed in tiny white plastic coffins with a see-through lid, like Snow White. Normally, it would be chicken or beef unless you're vegetarian, then they give you a cardboard tray. I hear it's very rich in fiber.

Once, a few years ago, after I bought my tickets online, the screen asked me if I had special dietary restrictions. Most of the time, I can only eat maybe a small portion of what's on my tray. I can't eat the dessert or the side dish because usually it would have some kind of dairy. Sometimes, there is also cheese in the salad or cream in the dressing. I figured, this is great! I would get a tray where I can eat everything! I typed "No Dairy" in the blank space.

On that trip, the flight attendant came by and confirmed that I was the one who ordered the special tray. I was excited; I was the first one to be served. She came back with a tray with a shiny metal cover.

The flight attendant pulled up cover to reveal a succulent, head of lettuce. Ok, I am exaggerating. It wasn't a head of lettuce, but there was definitely a lot of lettuce there, sprinkled with lots of carrots. I hate carrots.

Back to my current flight, the Korean Airlines flight attendant was slowly pushing the cart forward. As she served you your tray, she bowed down low, eyes smiling, politely honoring you with her wares. My mouth watered with anticipation.

When she came to me, there was a look of dismay in her eyes.

"Please, sir," she whispered agitatedly, "so, so sorry, but we are out of beef. Will our honored guest accept Bibimbop instead?"

Clearly, this was just politeness. If I had declined, she has no recourse but to perform seppuku, the ancient ritual of self-immolation. Since there are no metal cutlery onboard, she would have to do it with the plastic butter knife. That would be messy. Plus, I didn't want her to bleed all over my suede shoes so I accepted.

Bibimbop. I am not sure whether I should expect some kind of meat, fish or the severed heads of Hanson.

I was relieved to see it was a small bowl of rice topped with minced chicken, vegetables and sliced eggs. For authenticity, it came some seaweed broth and a small sachet of sesame seed oil to drizzle on top. There was also a tube of what looked like a small, travel-sized toothpaste on the tray. How convenient, I thought. It could be handy if the dish is bad breath-inducing or something.

It was surprisingly good. I hummed mmmBibimbop under my breath as I ate it.

Later, in the lavatory (lavatory, it was one of those words that begged to be pronounced in a fake British accent, you know like, bloke or Bono), I found out that the tube was a paste of hot chili pepper. When I squeezed the paste out of the tube, I thought it was weird that it was the color of ketchup. The flakes were a little strange too. Luckily, I smelled and licked it with the tip of my tongue before using it. Apparently, the Koreans liked their food spicy.

I don't know what the dessert was. It was wrapped in a forbidding package that I was afraid to open. The picture on it showed something that could've been a moist, dark green brownie. Right next to the picture of the soylent brownie was a cute little manga-style cartoon boy with dashes for eyes, happily exclaiming something in Korean. There were only a few English words on it--"100% Natural," "Healthy" and three words that should never be on any dessert package ever: "Good For You!!!"

You could put twenty exclamation points after these words but it won't sway my opinion. If you really want to sell a dessert, you should put the words "Stroke-inducing!" in a bubbly yellow font on it. I'd buy it in a flash.

One exclamation point will do.

Fake Plastic Food at South Korea's Incheon International Airport:

This is part of a series of posts about my vacation in February of '06 in the Philippines. Read the rest here:

Part 1: The Long Way Home
Part 2: Starvation
Part 3: Fake Plastic Food
Part 4: My Old Room
Part 5: Autopilot
Part 6: Jetlag

Part 7: A Conversation with My Father
Part 8: Archeology
Part 9: A Conversation with My Mother
Part 10: Redeye
Part 11: I Carry Your Heart
Epilogue: Fun with Fake Poop

No comments: