Plane Delicious

I'm gearing up to hop a plane for a vacation abroad. While most people fret about nabbing window or aisle, my thoughts are on what I will bring on board to eat. After reading more than a few horror stories about in-flight cuisines, I stopped depending on airplane meals long before they thought to make passengers pay for them -- as if! The food served on planes is notoriously high in calories and salt, so not ideal fare for dealing with dehydration from high altitudes and possible jet lag. Plus, bringing my own food lets me eat what I want when I'm hungry.

The trick with bringing your own food is to find something compact -- you don't want to waste a whole carry-on bag packing your edibles -- but not too perishable or fragile. Wraps are a favorite of mine. I spread on a thin layer of pesto on a whole wheat tortilla and stuff it with roasted veggies (eggplant, squash and zucchini are at the top of my list this time around). In the past, I've played with a dijon chicken filling, sprouts and jalapeno hummus and barbecued tofu with corn and romaine. Wraps are compact and can even fit into the beverage cozy of my carry-on if I find myself strapped for space. I'm also toying with the idea of chicken in lettuce wraps to spice things up.

As an accompaniment, I enjoy roasting edamame (recipe follows). If I don't have time to make the edamame, almonds are a portable alternative. I also like to mix together trail mix. I combine almonds, cashews, dried cranberries, dried cherries and, when I'm feeling indulgent, chocolate chips.

That brings me to the final part of my essential flying fare. Desserts are the easiest part about plane food. I usually pack cookies or a sweet fruit muffin. If you're a fruit-lover, try to peel oranges, slice apples and otherwise prepare things in advance so that you're not stuck with extraneous garbage in your lap when you finish eating.

Spicy Roasted Edamame
Adapted from Karen Caplan

1 package (12 ounces) frozen shelled edamame
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Toss to coat. Arrange the beans in a single layer in a shallow baking dish. Roast, uncovered, at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring once, until the beans begin to brown. Serve hot as a vegetable side dish or cooled as a snack. Leftovers can be refrigerated.

Serves 2

By Erin |  July 27, 2006; 8:29 AM ET Travel
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Could someone give me an idea of how to pronounce edamame? I don't know if "mame" is one syllable or two.

Posted by: pat | July 27, 2006 9:24 AM

Sure thing, Pat. It's pronounced ed-ah-mah-me (four syllables).

Posted by: Erin | July 27, 2006 9:39 AM

Hi Pat - it's pronounced ed-ah-mommy. Hope that helps!

Posted by: Emily | July 27, 2006 9:40 AM

i've tried to bring "prepared" (aka cooked) food into the terminal before, and they've confiscate it, saying it's "hazardous". has anyone else come across this same problem? are there any ways around it? I don't really want to bring an icepack or cooler...

Posted by: steph | July 27, 2006 10:33 AM

Wow. Maybe they wanted to eat it themselves?

I mean, the restaurants at the terminals are now doing a great business with take away because the airlines don't feed you anymore. Do they take that stuff away too? Or was it the fact that it was homemade?

Very strange.

Posted by: saw | July 27, 2006 5:20 PM

Thank you, Erin and Emily. Now I can ask in my grocery store where the heck is it! :-)

(Harris-Teeter, and they should have it.)

Posted by: pat | July 27, 2006 5:32 PM

Fruits and veggies can be confiscated by the agriculture department if you are travelling from an area with pests (such as the fruit fly or citrus canker). Meat and cheese products are generally restricted from going through customs (either into a foreign country or returning to the US) but that shouldn't be done by the airline staff.

Peanut and nut products are sometimes confiscated by airline staff as hazardous if that flight has been designated as a no-nut zone because an allergic passenger is flying. Packaged food will have labels to let them know if its okay for such a flight, but home-cooked food won't so they will get rid of all of it.

Other than that, there really isn't any reason for them to restrict food products, although it would be reasonable to ask passengers not to use glass bottles for example (although I've never heard of this and fly frequently).

Wraps are a great way to avoid the smooshed bread problem. Homemade "lunchables" are good too- take good lunchmeat, sliced cheese, crackers or triscuits, fresh bell peppers/other sliced veggies, and combine into a meal on the plane.

I like to pack a meal that is kept cold by a frozen juice box or two, after 2 hours or so, you have a nice slushy to eat (test out the box beforehand to make sure you can tear open that brand without a knife).

Posted by: Faith | July 31, 2006 3:46 PM

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