Remember When Airplane Meals Were Included With the Price of the Ticket?

Remember when meals on an airplane were included with the price of the ticket?

I do.

I don’t recall the airplane meals being anything like what I would normally consider food. But still I liked them and looked forward to them. Airline food had a special taste and consistency that I could enjoy back in the days when my digestive system could still hit a curve ball.

If the flight was long enough to be considered meal-worthy, the “steward” or “stewardess” (the ancient names for flight attendants) would serve each passenger breakfast, lunch, or dinner, depending on the time of day. My favorite meal was dinner, followed by a distant lunch and an even more distant breakfast. Lunch was just some turkey with a squeezable packet of Hellman’s, and breakfast was allegedly “eggs” and “sausage” but no laboratory could confirm this. But dinner was always great, and the main reason was because of the dessert.

Dessert was the crown jewel of the plastic divider plates, and carrot cake was the dominant dessert. I was on a flight to Florida to see my grandparents and eat ice cream every day when I had my first taste of airplane carrot cake. I went down the aisle of the plane, asking people if they were going to eat their carrot cake, or if they were going to finish their carrot cake if they had already started on it but looked like they might be full.

The most memorable airplane experience was when I flew to Vancouver Island the summer before my senior year of high school to spend two weeks studying killer whales and whether they preferred cable or satellite. The in-flight desert was a Table Talk apple pie. I wolfed mine down and then asked my classmates if they were going to eat theirs. Word spread quickly throughout the Boeing 747 that I was willing to eat unwanted Table Talk apple pie, free of charge, and the white and red boxes were piling up on my fold down tray. I was only halfway done when they announced that we were landing and had to put the tray tables back in their upright positions and that our Captain had turned on the “no-gluttony” sign.

Those days are over. Today, the flight attendants go down the aisle asking if anyone wants to purchase food. I don’t know if they sell dessert because I am too cheap to find out. I’m sure that some economics professor could prove to me on the back of a napkin that tickets would just be more expensive if the meals were included, and that this pricing model is really more efficient because people who don’t want meals can elect to forgo them and thereby reduce their flying costs. Of course, the professor would have to bring the napkin because I won’t pay for that, either.

Soon you’ll have to pay extra for a seat. The passengers will be standing on the plane as it taxis towards the runway, and the flight attendants will go down the aisle, asking three passengers at a time whether they would like to purchase a seat for the flight. Most people will decline the offer, because they will refuse to pay for something that used to be included. I know this because I will be one of them.

Remember When Kids Drank Soda?

Remember when kids drank soda?

I do.

In my home when I was growing up, soda was a treat.  My parents did not carry soda in the house as part of the regular store of beverages.  Orange juice, lemonade…but no soda.  Or pop.  Or whatever you call it where you are from.

Soda was something we drank at pizzerias and McDonald’s and Chuck E. Cheese’s.  And friends’ houses.  I had a friend who had bottles of Coke in his fridge.  He brought me a bottle of Coke while we were playing video games.  My parents did not let me have video games, either.  But that is another story for another time.  Drinking soda and playing video games at the same time—I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

When I got to college I could drink soda whenever I wanted.  I could drink soda with breakfast if I wanted.  And I did.

But now…now kids don’t drink soda.  Their parents don’t let them.  Parents who neglect or beat their children are ignored by the authorities.  But parents who give their kid a Coke or Pepsi on Monday will be arraigned on Tuesday.

As for me, soda is still a treat.  I drink in the dark and I don’t care how many calories it has.  And it still tastes awesome.

Remember When People Ate Apples?

Remember when people ate apples and pears instead of pomegranates and star fruit?

I do.

There used to be like four fruits.  Apples, oranges, pears…um, bananas.  I don’t know.  Maybe there were more.  Oh, in the summer there were peaches and nectarines and plums.  I liked them all.  Except pears.  And anything with a brown spot.  I would open the refrigerator and balk and brown-spotted fruit, exclaiming, “Ugh!  I’m not eating that!  It has a brown spot!”  And my mother would shout from the living room, “There’s nothing wrong with it – just eat it.  You kids are so spoiled.”

Peaches were my favorite.  I liked them hard – almost not ripe.  A rock-hard peach with no brown spots was the greatest five minutes in the world (at least at that time in my life).  The only thing that could ruin such a perfect peach was when part of the pit would come off with the bite.

My second favorite fruit was a nectarine.  Same criteria as the peach, except, obviously, no fuzz.

Next came plums.  Same criteria as for peaches and nectarines.  A soft plum was like biting into a water balloon. 

After this triage of summer fruits I would have to say my next favorite fruit – a distant, distant fourth place – was the apple.  But I did not like the McIntosh, or Red Delicious, or even Golden Delicious.  The only apple I liked was the Granny Smith.  And these I also liked hard and crispy with no brown spots.  I was told, however, that Granny Smith apples would give me a bellyache, and should be used only for baking pies.  So I had to eat the McIntosh, Red Delicious, and Golden Delicious, prentending to like them because that was what society expected of me.

There were other fruits but I did not like them that much.  Oranges were okay but hard to peel and gave me sticky hands.  Grapes and cherries were better than starving but were somehow unsatisfying, being the potato chips of the fruit world.  Watermelon I despised.  To this day I cannot figure out why watermelon is considered such a treat.

As I emerged from childhood I learned of other fruits.  When I got into high school I was introduced to kiwi fruit.  In college I heard about mangoes.  During law school I even ate something called a rhubarb.  Peruse the produce section of your local supermarket and you see a panoply of exotic fruits, including the biblical pomegranate and fake-looking starfruit.  I have not yet partaken of most of these new fruits.  But if I do I will be sure to check for brown spots.

Remember When Plain Cream Cheese Was the Only Cream Cheese?

Remember when there was only one flavor of cream cheese?

I do.

When I was growing up we got bagels every Sunday morning.  My favorite bagel was cinnamon raisin.  For spreads our choices were butter and cream cheese.  Cream cheese came in only one flavor—plain.  The plain cream cheese came in two types of consistency: the smooth “Philadelphia” kind and the whipped “TempTee” kind.  I preferred the whipped kind, but would take the smooth kind if that’s all there was.  Beggars cannot be choosers.

Then one day I heard that there was a “vegetable” cream cheese.  I almost retched at the news.  Why would someone want to eat cream cheese that tasted like broccoli and carrots?

And they did not stop there.  Now they have salmon cream cheese, hummus cream cheese, strawberry cream cheese, and chocolate cream cheese.  They have every flavor under the rainbow.  I’m waiting for them to come out with a cream cheese that tastes like butter. 

This variety sounded so weird to me.  But it turned I was the one who was weird.  Because no one can believe that I choose plain cream cheese when so many flavors are available.  My friends are embarrassed to eat with me.  They let me sit at the table with my plain cream cheese but I’m not allowed to talk.

I wouldn’t have anything to say, anyway.  I would be too busy eating my bagel and plain cream cheese.  And enjoying it.

Remember When Fruit Roll-Ups Were Popular?

Remember when Fruit Roll-Ups were a popular snack?

I do.

Every morning of elementary school the class was given fifteen minutes to eat a snack.  You could bring any snack you wanted.  In the beginning I was given snacks like apples or carrots or apricots.  The apricots were okay.  But I noticed that some of the other kids were eating a gelatinous substance that they peeled from a plastic sheet.  I asked these kids what was the name of their strange and exciting snack.

“It’s a Fruit Roll-Up.  Would you like some?”

I replied that I would..

“Well you can’t have any.”

That night I lobbied my parents for Fruit Roll-Ups.  At first they were skeptical, but when you are a kid you can afford to be persistent because you have nothing else to do.

Fruit Roll-Ups came in a variety of flavors.  The first one I got was strawberry.  The first morning I brought a Fruit Roll-Up to class was the proudest of my life.  I will never forget the moment that snack time was called and I was at long last able to congregate with the other Fruit Roll-Up eaters.

“Hey there, Kaplowitz.  I see you’ve got a Fruit Roll-Up.”

I replied that I had.

“What happened to the apple?”

I replied that I did not know what he was talking about.

“Well do you want to trade with me?  I’ve never had a strawberry one before.”

I told him to go to hell.

Some people would peel off their Fruit Roll-Ups all at once and twist them up and eat them.  I never did that.  I liked to peel off a piece at time and savor the gelatinous treasure.

I don’t know if they still sell Fruit Roll-Ups.  I have heard that some teachers require kids to bring “healthy” snacks.  Liberty loses another battle in its war with Health.

Remember When People Did Not Walk Around With Bottles of Water?

Remember when people did not walk around with bottles of water?

I do.

Bottles used to be just for babies and soccer players.  If these individuals got thirsty, the bottle was there.  The rest of us had to wait until the appropriate meal times.

Then sometime in the late 80s the French figured out that Americans would be stupid enough to pay for water just because it was in a bottle.  First it was Perrier and Evian and then other brands made their splash.

I was in the eighth grade when I first noticed people around me carrying bottles of water.  I thought to myself, “There are water fountains placed throughout the school.  Why are they carrying around water?  They are not babies.  They are not playing soccer.”

But it did not matter.  As I was to learn, they needed the water because they needed.  And after two decades of carrying water in bottles, the medical community has decreed that everyone should drink more water.

Even the bottles themselves have changed.  For a long time plastic was the rage.  But then too many health and environmental issues arose so that now people are buying aluminum bottles with designer labels.  There are websites weighing the relative merits of different brands of designer aluminum water bottles.

Last year I saw a water fountain in an old courthouse.  It was the first water fountain I’d seen in ten years.  I went over to it, leaned down to sip, but when I pulled the lever nothing came out.  The fountain had run dry.

Remember When No One Had a Peanut Allergy?

Remember when no one had a peanut allergy?

I do.

I and everyone I knew ate peanuts in every form.  Peanut butter.  Peanut…well, I guess it was just peanut butter.  The whole Asian cuisine juggernaut had not yet risen, and beer (with bowl of peanuts annexed thereto) was also years away.  But peanut butter was a staple.  I ate peanut butter plain, and I ate it as an ingredient in many, many foods, although I did not know or care about things like ingredients.

No one I knew was allergic to peanuts.  I knew plenty of people who were allergic to cats, but none who were allergic to peanuts.  And then one day I turned around and there were more people allergic to peanuts than cats.  And not just a little allergic – more than just a few sniffles and headaches.  No, these peanut allergies were lethal.  I had to start walking around with the knowledge that the free bag of peanuts they gave me on the airplane was a mortal weapon.  Although soon they stopped giving out those peanuts, too.

Where did this mortal allergy come from?  Why so suddenly?  Did it come from another planet?  Was it genetically engineered by a pretzel company?  We’ll never know the answer.

All I know is that I have to be careful where I open jars of peanut butter.  The 21st Century is a dangerous place.

Remember Box Drinks?

Remember when box drinks were the beverage of choice for a bag lunch?

I do.

In the summers I went to a day camp in my town.  The campers had to bring their lunch everyday.  Virtually all the lunches were in brown bags, and everyone brought a box drink.  The box drink was a little box containing a very sugary fruit juice in it.  Orange and grape were the most popular flavors.  A plastic straw shrink-wrapped in clear plastic was glued to the back of the box drink.

I loved box drinks.  By lunch time I could see the condensation that had collected on the cold box drink seeping out through the paper bag.  Lunch was fairly typical for that time – peanut butter and jelly, baloney, and always on white bread – but the box drink was what I really waited for.  I would save it to the very end, and then enjoy the rush of sugar before returning to the drudgery of kickball or soccer.

The box drinks had brand names like “Ssips!” or “Motts” or “Juicy Juice” or “Hawaiian Punch” or “Capri Sun.”  Capri Sun was not really a box; it was an aluminum pouch that required special skill to pierce properly with the draw.  The few times I had to do the drink got stabbed so many times that I knew I could never be a doctor or a nurse.  I needed a box to pierce the foiled aperture.  What a satisfying feeling it was, driving that plastic straw through that little circle of foil into the sugary drink within.

I don’t know if box drinks are still in use today.  If they are, people are drinking them when I’m not around.  Kids today probably bring real juice drinks bearing names like “Naked” or “Vitamin Water” or “Nantucket Nectars” or maybe even the occasional “Snapple”.  And their parents have to take out a home-equity line of credit to buy these drinks that, I am sure, are healthier and tastier and bigger.

But until you’ve drained a Ssips! in one sip, or pierced a Capri Sun on the first try, you have not really lived.

Remember When Sliced Bread Was Uniform?

Remember when sliced bread was made of a uniform substance?

I do.

There was white bread and rye bread.  These I liked and ate regularly as a child – white bread for school lunches, rye bread at family gatherings.  There was also wheat bread and pumpernickel.  These breads I despised and would not eat even if it meant starving.  But all these breads were uniform, homogenous.  That is, they were made of one continuous substance.

The sliced bread they sell today comes with non-bread substances that interrupt the smooth homogeneity of the sliced breads of yesteryear.  Nuts embedded, dried oatmeal glued to the crust.  Everything is “multi-grain” instead of “mono-grain.”  Would you buy a car that was composed of parts from many different cars?  Why is this tolerated with our bread?  Instead of multi-grain bread they should call it Frankenstein bread.

And the most perplexing part is this “nouveau pain” isn’t any better.  “Pain” is right.  Wheat bread and pumpernickel may have been disgusting to taste.  But these breads did not also challenge the abilities of the alimentary canal.

I understand that some people like the embedded nuts and glued-on oatmeal.  To the extent of purchasing bread, you can say it’s a free country.  But sometimes multi-grain bread is the only kind of bread offered.  And it is offered with excitement, written in colored chalk in block letters on the “specials” blackboard:  MULTI-GRAIN!!!

Go ahead, have your multi-grain party.  Just leave some white bread for me.  Or rye bread.