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How to eat on a plane

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People still complain about airplane food as if they were in a hospital or prison and have no choice but to eat it.

But when airlines cut costs by eliminating complimentary meal service, allowing us to bring our own food, they ushered in a golden age of eating on airplanes. Let me place a few tips on your fold-down tray so you can enjoy this experience as you were meant to.

1. Don’t eat on short flights
For hour-long dashes between Montreal, Toronto, New York and Chicago, do not eat or drink. You’re going somewhere with great restaurants. Make reservations for when you land. Short trips like that are the equivalent of the time most people spend commuting every day between homes in the suburbs and jobs downtown. You wouldn’t plan a meal to eat on a long subway ride. Treat this the same, particularly if it’s for business. Don’t risk the stain from a splash of coffee.

2. Don’t eat airplane food
For real flights, when you’re flying across the country, you get hungry. Be prepared like a Boy Scout.

There used to be myths that alternative meals — kosher, vegetarian — were a step up. But anyone who has tried these dehydrated/rehydrated pucks of lasagna knows that to be urban legend. The only circumstances under which you should be eating that airplane food is if your flight is delayed so long that you end up needing two meals during your travel. It’s a back-up meal.

3. Avoid the need for cutlery
You don’t want to have to mess with cutlery: asking for it; having to clean your own; spooning anything out of a bowl that’s likely to spill. Joseph P. Sandwich knew what he was doing when he invented his eponymous meal. A sandwich is the perfect travel companion because it comes in its own container (bread) that you eat.

4. Don’t bring stinky food
You’d think that everyone would know not to bring an egg salad or tuna sandwich on a plane. But we’ve seen — and smelled — it done. Don't be that person.

5. Don’t bring messy food
And the person beside me with the bowl of take-out Thai curry? We are all brothers and sisters, but I would rather the air marshal take this person out before they spill on me.

6. Avoid the airport food court
A tightly-wrapped burrito is going to be cold by the time you’re in the air. So you may as well buy it at the best burrito place in your neighbourhood, before you leave for the airport, rather than pay the airport robbery prices in the food court, for the most mediocre burrito in the sky.

7. No fruit
On a flight to New Orleans, knowing that I’d be eating deep-fried fish all week, I brought an apple and orange with me. To the customs people, I might as well have been holding a black bowling ball with “BOMB” written on it in white paint. Don’t bring fresh fruit.

8. Snack it out
Have little bonus snack bags — nuts, dried fruit, chips — in case you need to stretch. These can also be used to bribe the bozo next to you, who didn’t bring their own food, into trading seats so you can be closer to the bathroom.