Dreaming of pie in the sky

If you avoided my 2013-word post on the past year, let me sincerely wish you a happy new year 2014!

You may or may not know that I spent my New Year’s Eve on a long-haul flight to Australia, and that I get a serious attack of the munchies during any form of travel. I don’t know why, but I get consumed with this need to snack. Sometimes it’s for a nibble, sometimes it’s for more substantial food, sometimes it’s for sweetness, sometimes it’s for savoury. There is no pattern to it, no telling how or when it is going to strike, but the only thing I know for certain is that it will happen.

I could give in totally, arm myself with a multitude of snacks and hope that I have what I am in the mood for when the craving strikes. Unfortunately, I usually crave whatever I know I have in my bag, and I end up eating everything at once. Which is great at the time, but I just feel rubbish afterwards, both physically and pyschologically. I can deal with that when I’ve been training hard, eating well, working steadily, and just need a break, but I have just spent the last month thoroughly enjoying the festive season and frankly, just wanted a little bit of normality.

When I left France the day before flying to Australia from London (follow?), I had to empty the fridge of its perishables including three carrots. Ideal! They were chopped and bundled into a zip-lock bag; the ideal combination of crunchy, slightly sweet, not cloying, slightly hydrating, dainty, and with no risk of resulting in crumbs of melting chocolate being sat on.

Carrot sticks

I’m not going to say I particularly enjoyed the carrots, but they did serve as the perfect palette-cleanser and reminder of how nice it can feel to eat something healthy.
Perry Court Farm pear crisps

If you’ve been around for a little while, you’ll recognise these guys. First discovered in relation to my last trip to Australia, and frequent visitors to outgoing UK Vegan Food Swap boxes, they are definitely a favourite travelling snack. Each bag is a little different, and this one was full of chewy, sweet, almost caramelised pear slices.

I also had a bag of apple chips from a supermarket in Luxembourg which Ben and I snacked on throughout. I don’t know how they make them so good, they are 100% apple with no added preservatives and no fancy dehydration methods, just plain old supermarket brand apple chips with no internet link. They were perfect for a post-meal hit of sweetness.

Airplane Pulsin protein snack

Despite doing a fair amount of snacking before even embarking on the 27+ hour journey, I couldn’t ignore my hankering for something more substantial. Luckily at the last minute before leaving the house I had remembered the Pulsin Vanilla Choc Chip protein snack bar I had received in December‘s UK Vegan Food Swap. I ate it before we’d even taken off, and while it was a bit pasty and floury it oddly hit the spot.

Now for the “real” food. On the first leg of the flight, from London to Dubai, there was no option of a vegan meal but there was a fruit platter, so we chose that. To be honest, it’s really nice just having a variety of fresh fruit on at least a part of a long-haul flight, and this fruit was surprisingly good. I would definitely recommend it! In the middle, I also got the box of snacks from the standard menu; the cheese, obviously, wasn’t vegan but the crackers, foccacia slices, and chili dip were all vegan.

Emirates fruit platter

We had a 7-hour stopover at Dubai, which earned us a free meal voucher (complimentary to all passengers with a 4-hour layover or more). Not that we were made aware of this at any point during our booking or check-in process – had we not had an issue with our seating which caused us to harass as many Emirates staff members as we could find at 2am, we never would have stumbled across the desk issuing them.

The places where you can redeem your voucher are, obviously, limited. McDonalds are obviously on the list, as was a seafood restaurant, a buffet restaurant, an Indian and a Thai fast-food outlet, and a few sandwich places including Le Pain Quotidien. We made the most of our time to scour the entire airport in order to examine all of our options and walk as much as possible, and eventually, predictably, ended up at Pain Quotidien where your voucher gets you a sandwich, a scone or brownie, and a drink.Dubai Pain Quotidien sandwich

This roasted eggplant and spicy hummus sandwich with tomato, rocket, and pesto sauce is vegan and so delicious. The bread was great, fresh and crusty, and the fillings were generous and flavourful. I couldn’t have asked for anything better after 7 hours of unsubstantial snacks, little sleep, and an hour of walking around the one of the world’s most soulless airports at 4am. I kept talking about this sandwich until well into our next flight.

Another outlet covered by the voucher is Così, an unexciting sandwich-salad-pizza place who did offer a hummus and salad sandwich on the voucher deal, and Taste of India and Thai Express both offered set menus for voucher-holders; Taste of India’s main included paneer and I don’t know if that can be replaced by additional chana masala, and I have no idea about Thai Express. Frankly, I wouldn’t consider going anywhere other than Pain Quotidien, which is also a little quieter with a less cafeteria-like setting.
Emirates pasta meal

On the Dubai-Sydney leg of the flight, I got the exact same meals I had had back in April. For lunch, an unexpectedly tasty ravioli dish in tomato sauce, a vine leaf with hummus and a decorative bit of salad, and some citrus fruit. I ended up eating Ben’s hummus&co and his fruit. This is why I don’t need extra snacks when I travel!

For breakfast, I had what I think was supposed to be a hash brown, with spinach, mushrooms, and a tomato – again, all actually really tasty – and a fruit salad. All with a side of heavy turbulence hence no photos – but it’s the same as I posted here in the second-last picture. And again, I ate most of Ben’s too.

Having landed almost 16 hours ago, I can confirm that this is the best I have felt after a long-haul flight. I don’t feel bloated, or crampy, or gassy, or just gross from eating too much sugar. I think my usual regime of as-much-water-as-I-can-acquire plus electrolytes plus carrots and fruit for snacks instead of chocolate and cereal bars kept me a lot better hydrated and topped up vitamins and minerals to keep me feeling fresh, and avoiding the bread rolls kept my digestive system happy.

I’d love to hear other people’s experiences on flights, vegan or not – what are your tricks to stay healthy and sane?

4 thoughts on “Dreaming of pie in the sky

  1. Alex says:

    Hey Claire, Happy New Year. You in Australia on holiday? I went to Costa Rica in December and flew via Miami and have actually just written a blog about my experience with the food on board (haven’t published it yet). Or not so much my experience but what I could see around me. I took some of my own food with me, so didn’t really eat much on the plane but seeing what other people were doing served as an interesting overview of the state of the food system and people’s nutrition. Lot’s of poor quality white wheat, tons of sugar (washed down with even more sugar), (you would have to imagine) very poor quality meat, chocolate, ice-cream, sweets, biscuits etc. I can’t imagine how horrible my body would feel after eating like that for a day. And I didn’t see that much water being drank either. So was an interesting experience. One of my main gripes with the airline was that they didn’t offer enough water – I did come armed with a few litres for my partner and I but still airlines should be making water much more readily available particularly as flying is so dehydrating. Also I couldn’t believe how many plastic cups the airline went through – with every drink was a new cup – all of which went into the bin and not even recycled… Such an incredible waste of natural resources which is now going to end up in a landfill filling the air with noxious fumes… And then try getting healthy food at Miami airport – think we managed a few bags of nuts. The only other option was a KFC or a Pizza Hut. (There were some better places but they were about a half hour walk away and we didn’t have time, so we’re stuck down the furthest end of the terminal. Security in Miami took 1.5 hours to get through!). So that was my experience with it – not quite so good as yours!

    Have a great time down-under!


    • greatveganexpectations says:

      Happy New Year Alex! I am indeed on holiday in Australia, my mum’s side of the family is here so catching up with them. I agree about the wastage on planes, I keep trying to hand them back my plastic cup for refills but they invariably throw them out and give me a new one! I have to say though, that I didn’t struggle too much with water even though I only had a 750ml bottle with me – I actually never needed to ask for water outside of the times they offered, but they did have trays of water and juice available in between meals, as well as little water fountains by the toilets – but I don’t understand how people can drink alcohol and soft drinks on an aeroplane, not to mention caffeinated drinks! But I guess if you’ve never felt healthy then you don’t know what you’re missing… Thanks for the comment, I look forward to reading your blog post! x

      • aheffron88 says:

        Hope you’re having a great time. Yeah I did manage to get them to refill mine, but it’s crazy that they haven’t picked up on this – am sure the airlines could save money whilst being more eco-friendly. Yes that’s very true – if you haven’t felt healthy then it’s difficult to know what you’re missing out.

        On another note – watched the film vegucated on the weekend (ever seen it? It’s on netflix, which I have spent far too much time on over the holidays, though there are some very good documentaries on there!). If you haven’t seen it it’s about a vegan who gets 3 meat-eaters to be a vegan for 6 weeks and whilst they do it they visit farms, slaughterhouses, animal rehab centres, scientists, doctors etc. Quite a cool film. Anyway there’s a bit on there about slaughterhouses and ‘food processing plants’ (to call it that is a horrific euphemism of the worst sort) – and it shows what happens to male chicks who are not considered worthy… it’s shocking. I have seen a lot of these videos before, and it’s what has inspired me to stop eating meat. But what I hadn’t considered, was that this goes on in the organic, so-called higher-welfare system as well. There are still male chicks being tossed aside, male calves being ‘destroyed’ (in the words of the farm rep) etc. Whilst I truly believe there are better practices, it got me thinking about easily available organic eggs, milk, cheese etc. can it really maintain high welfare standards? Can there really not be any abuse going on? One of the things that got me to stop eating meat was reading some investigations done by CIWF which found soil association approved farms carrying out cruel practice. It may be the minority, but it happens. And that’s only a part of the story I know. So as of Saturday I have committed to going mostly vegan. Which means no animal products at home, or for lunch, breakfast or dinner 95% of the time. Occasionally if I find myself in a situation where I couldn’t get something vegan, then I would be prepared to eat some dairy (there’s a veggie indian rest. I do really love, I don’t go there very often but I’m guessing they use ghee? I’m ok with doing that occasionally) or fish, but it would be a very rare occasion, and limited to not more than a few times per year. So I will do my best to be as vegan as I find possible. The rest of my life is pretty much vegan anyway… In an ideal world I probably would be vegetarian, eating very occasional amounts of fish (maybe – still not decided on that one) but in this world and right now I don’t think that’s possible. If I had a little farm next door with a few cows, chicken, goats roaming around and practising farming humanely and compassionately then I would happily consume some dairy, but to find that whilst living in London is pretty hard! And eating out you’re never gunna get that in London…

        Apologies for the long reply! Been 6 months since I’ve eaten meat (rightly or wrongly using the definition of fish as not meat…), so given myself the goal of going the rest of January as vegan as much as possible and take it from there.


      • greatveganexpectations says:

        Hey Alex, that’s great news! That’s definitely the same reasoning I had; I could no longer ignore the fact that by consuming animal products I was directly feeding an industry which could never be ethical – by being another one of the millions of people demanding animal products, I was forcing the industry to get bigger and more powerful, and I could no longer deny it.

        I think the key is definitely to take it step-by-step. There’s no point in making eating out, social gatherings, cravings, etc, stressful – with practise, they become anything but (I never worry about where I’m going to eat), but it can be a bit much when you’re still adjusting to your own eating habits and preferences. One day at a time, and don’t fear the vegan police 🙂

        I really admire that you’ve taken a decision purely on the basis of your reasoning, the most selfless way to go vegan, and I hope it rewards you with a lighter conscience and a healthy body! Keep us posted 🙂

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