Does Air France Translate “Vegetarian Meal” As “I’m on a Diet”?

Whenever I’m on a flight that includes a meal, I always find myself wishing that I had requested a vegetarian one. That’s not because I’m a vegetarian but rather because I am a somewhat picky eater who has no interest in any meat product prepared by an airline. But asking for the meal ahead of time always seems like too much effort for plane food. So I’d never actually eaten the vegetarian meal – until last Friday.

On our Air France flight to Istanbul on Friday (which went via Paris), we sat on the ground for a good three to four hours waiting for a rainstorm to pass, during which time the crew passed out the dinner menu. I saw that we had a choice of entree: beef bourguignon or fillet of pollock. I didn’t want either of those, nor did I want the salad (barley with tuna) but the rest of the meal sounded fine – cheese and banana-chocolate cake.

So I decided to ask my stewardess if there were any vegetarian meals available, thinking that perhaps with the long delay she would try to be accommodating. And she was.

Sure enough, when dinner time came several hours later, I was given a vegetarian meal. The main course was some vegetable medley that I found fairly unappetizing – less offensive than a meat dish but not appealing enough to eat. But maybe to a true vegetarian (or someone deliriously starving) it would have looked OK.

My problem was with the rest of the meal. The cheese and chocolate cake were nowhere to be found on my tray. Instead I had two fruit cups – one was a vacuum-sealed Dole cup and one was a little bowl with fresh-cut fruit. Had I asked for a vegan meal instead? Maybe that’s why they had an extra one…

Luckily, I have a very generous husband who shared his cheese and dessert with me. When my vegetarian breakfast came a few hours later, it included yogurt. So I guess it wasn’t vegan after all. Meanwhile the regular meal came with a chocolate-chip brioche. OK, it was more like a chocolate-chip dinner roll that was trying to be a brioche. But no matter what it was, that ball of starch and sugar was vegetarian (I hope!).

The only conclusion that I can draw is that in French “vegetarian” means “I’m on a diet.” So when I asked for the vegetarian option they assumed that I was on a strict, low-cal diet that did not allow for chocolate. Oh well, I’m quickly making up for it on my trip.

5 Responses to Does Air France Translate “Vegetarian Meal” As “I’m on a Diet”?

  1. Melvin June 30, 2009 at 5:39 pm #

    Try the vegan meal next time… :) I guess it will be even more fun. But don’t forget to order it in advance, you won’t get it in short time notice.

  2. Dom July 6, 2009 at 6:20 pm #

    I have also had experiences in France when a “vegetarian” option is the same as the main course just without the meat.

  3. Marla July 9, 2009 at 5:48 pm #

    Sitting in the last row of the plane on my trip to Paris, when they got to us, it was veggie or nothing. It was actually an Indian-inspired rice dish that was quite good (or maybe I was just deliriously starving as I often am.) Thanks for the warning — I won’t switch to veggie plane meals on the basis of one good meal.

  4. Easy Veggie Recipes March 25, 2010 at 5:08 pm #

    I like very much your way of presentation. Looking forward to reading more from you. Thanks a lot.

  5. Brian August 8, 2010 at 6:59 am #

    I would love to know who comes up with the ideas for airplane food. I have never taken the vegetarian option either and I don’t think I have ever managed to finish any of the plastic courses I have been served on a plane yet.
    Have to think that spicey food would work best, as it would at least disguise the flavour of meat that has been hanging around too long.

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