Airline gluten free food... sorry did I use the word food?

Added on 11 Oct, 2005 . There are .

It's food in the loosest sense of the word. Having recently had to endure the culinary disasters foisted on me as gluten free meals on my flights to and from Canada, I can only think that the caterers preparing the gluten free meals have absolutely no idea of what they were doing, or don't care, or both.

For a start wheat free meals are not an option, you have to have gluten free or nothing. Which already puts my back up, and my suspicions, because some items that are gluten free have wheat in them that has had the gluten removed. So not safe for someone with a wheat allergy.

Over the years I have regularly had a bread roll, yes a wheat bread roll, plonked in the middle of my food tray when the label on the tray clearly says 'gluten free'. And one memorable meal with a well known British airline, actually gave me couscous for the main meal (with bread roll), and a Madeira cake for breakfast. The very same cake that all the other passengers had too, so not particularly gluten free me thinks.

I did actually take this up with the airline who said "we will investigate". A few weeks later I got a pointless response back saying in effect "tough shit, it's your fault for wanting a special meal".

So now I don't fly with that British airline anywhere ever. I've transferred my allegiance to a Canadian company, and I did have quite an edible meal a couple of years ago, smoked salmon salad no less.

Usually I don't eat much of the provided meal, preferring to take a packed lunch, but last month it really hit the bottom in terms of being inedible.

The main meal consisted of: - small crust of bread (unlabelled ingredients, gluten free bread often contains wheat starch with the gluten removed, if I can't see the ingredients I won't eat it) - small bowl of very old/brown looking salad leaves with a sachet of dressing (again no ingredients listed on dressing) - chicken in spicy smelling tomato sauce, 3 green beans and watery looking cubes of potato (without ingredients listed the spicy tomato sauce might contain certain spices or white pepper in it, both of which contain wheat) - small bottle of water

And to follow up, the light meal: - 2 slices of dry gluten free bread (no ingredients listed), no butter or spread, with a filling of one slice of aubergine and one end slice off a red pepper (I would question whether any of the caterers would eat a slice of cold aubergine) - small pot of water - cake which looked like it had oats in it (no ingredients listed, if it did contain oats it should be noted that oats are not gluten free)

Now as everyone unfortunate enough to eat mass produced gluten free bread knows, gluten free bread cannot be eaten 'raw', it needs refreshing/heating immediately before being eaten. The bread provided was wrapped in clingfilm and cold, and believe me, most gluten free bread is disgusting even when warm let alone cold.

And why do the caterers think that just because I want gluten free I also want it to be lactose free? For goodness sake, some butter would help take the crappy taste away.

Mind you, the light meal for all other passengers, and bear in mind that as the flight was from the UK it was equivalent to eating at midnight, was pizza. One elderly lady, who didn't actually appear to be in possession of her own teeth, said she couldn't eat pizza. The answer was "it's pizza or nothing". So she had nothing. As did the vegetarian special meal person who didn't like the vegetarian meal given to them, again they were told "it's that of nothing", so nothing was exactly what she had for her main meal too.

Yet after the main meal large packets of chocolate chip cookies were given out to the passengers, and then after that tubs of maple syrup ice cream. But nothing, not even a piece of fruit for the special meals passengers.

The two passengers nearby who had kosher meals had obviously got this whole eating on planes thing sussed. The kosher meals looked fantastic, absolutely luxurious. And funnily enough they didn't have any problem with the chocolate chip cookies, ice cream or pizza afterwards. Hmmmmmmm selective food issues, also known as being wise to what's the best food option to go for when you book... must be frequent flyers.

So for my next flights I've booked fruit platters, surely they can't mess those up, can they?