International air travel is often seen as exotic and exciting. And it is.
(Brace yourselves because there's a "But" coming.)
But when you have Coeliac Disease - which means that when you eat anything containing wheat or any wheat containing products such as bread, pasta, processed food, beer and whiskey - then your intestines do funny things ... they begin to eat themselves! The medical fraternity call it an Auto-immune disease. Thankfully, Coeliac Disease is the only one of those auto-immune diseases that can be controlled by diet alone - so no need for nasty meds with even nastier side-effects. The downside is that most people in the hospitality/food industry, don't have a clue about Coeliac disease and even less understanding of why it's so important for those with Coeliac to avoid the 'bete noir” in the wheat family ... Gluten.
Now if you travel overseas and you happen to have a sudden urge to eat (not an unreasonable impulse), it may come as a shock to realise that the vast majority of those who sell/serve you food don't understand a word of english, let alone an insight into the proteomics of the wheat genome! Now that can make life for the international Coeliac jet-setter mighty tricky.
When the young bride and I returned from a magnificent sojourn in Toronto, Canada, our itinerary involved taking two flights: one from Toronto to HK which was 16 hours long, and the second from HK to Perth which was just a tick under 8 hours long. Being locked up for that length of time in a metal tube can make any man or woman mighty bored which, I suspect, is why you get fed every four hours in order to break up the tedium up of the whole thing!
We'd requested GF food for the trip and were anticipating some new ideas to expand our repository of recipes for mealtimes back home. But guess what they served us as a main course at every meal we were offered? FISH! And not only that, it was cooked the same way on each occasion. Believe you me, microwaved white fish might be the new superfood somewhere in the Universe, but it tastes and smells like .... microwaved fricking fish and has the texture of ossified boot leather! I have to admit to a minor bout of hyperbole there, as with the first two meals we were given broccoli and some other unrecognisable Goop, but on the final sector it was steamed veggies and rice ... with microwaved fish of course.
Strange to report that we were a tad dismayed by this lack of culinary creativity, knowing as we do, of the very many, very tasty possibilities that GF meals can provide.
But as we exchanged dejected looks, an angel appeared!
Actually it was Angela who was (I think) the head honcho on board in charge of all the passengers, so the young bride tactfully shared her thoughts with her.
Well .... did this lady turn all our ideas of hospitality at 37,000ft on its head!
She was about the size of my carry-on bag but had the heart of a lion. She listened to our story (taking notes on a napkin so that she could pass on our comments to those higher up the 'catering' food chain) then she offered to get us some cheese to supplement the bottle of water which was the only edible thing on our trays. Our newly canonised Angela returned some five minutes later full of apologies. At that time there was no spare cheese in first class - but she was hopeful. In the meantime would two Coups (actually two very large plastic cups) of French Champagne do, accompanied by some fresh fruit marinated in orange liqueur?'
Would it heck!!
Hey, it was almost midnight on New Year's Eve and who could turn that offer down?
Come to think of it who could turn down the second filled-to-the-brim beaker of Champagne which was served with an array of fine cheeses and quince jam?
Daaamn it was good!
The moral to the story?
Keep flying high - 'cos up there you there's a real chance you could meet an angel!