This is the worst meal I've ever been served on an airplane.
At first glance, the plastic and foil-cloaked fodder may seem innocuous, but beneath the lid lurks a culinary crime against the flying public. When I say worst airplane meal ever, I mean ever. Let's put this into perspective: in the past two years I've flown nearly 250,000 miles on more than a dozen international carriers. I've eaten air meals on a West African charter and on a Ukrainian regional carrier I can't even pronounce. I'd like to think that I know my way around a tray table or two.
Airline food has a somewhat deserved reputation for being sub-par. Barring rare circumstance, it will never live up to the standards of ground food, but I've eaten well on airplanes. I've even enjoyed excellent meals in economy class. At the very worst, I've ranked airline meals as barely edible, the key word still being "edible." And then there's this meal.
This inflight abomination comes courtesy of Iberia Airlines. The flight is from Madrid to New York City, a.k.a. a trans-Atlantic horror show. Where Iberia has succeeded with meals-for-purchase on their inter-European routes, they have failed miserably in long-haul food service.
The plastic cover over my "salad" is surreptitiously marked with an angry red slash. I open it to reveal a mayonnaise-soaked lump of carrot slaw accompanied by a withered cherry tomato. I'm not bothered by the minuscule portion; I physically can't handle more than one bite.
For the main course, I'm given a choice between a meat or pasta. Following my own in-flight meal advice, I choose pasta, normally the lesser of two evils. The nearly sauceless tortellini has a stiff consistency like cardboard. The pieces touching the bottom of the dish are charred black. I am unable to identify the filling; I don't even want to try.
Dessert is supposedly a chocolate cake. It's a sweaty, tasteless, dark brown brick. By some miracle of science, catering has managed to remove the chocolate flavor AND the cake flavor from the dish. By process of elimination (the dinner roll is too hard to bite or cut), this unsavory loaf is the only edible item on the tray.
Though Iberia is in the process of refurbishing their aircraft interiors, I scored a plane from the Dark Ages, complete with projection video screens, non-functioning earphone jacks and seats stacked so close together you have to be a contortionist to make it from a window seat to the aisle. The food is just the tip of the iceberg.
Would I take a long haul flight on Iberia again? I'll be honest: I would rather paddle across the Atlantic in a slowly sinking canoe filled with hissing geese.