United In-Flight Food Review #2

In transatlantic travel tradition, I have comprised a brief review of the culinary offerings on my flight from TLV to EWR:

My flight was set to depart at 10:30 AM, an odd time to fly into another time zone. Perhaps due to this timing the meals were not defined so much as presented sporadically without definitive titles. There was no LUNCH, DINNER, BREAKFAST; there was some food, a snack, and some more food. I didn’t mind the informality—if anything, I’d only take grievance with my self-hindering vegetarianism. The selection was odd.

FOOD 1:

About an hour and a half after takeoff I came to and realized that people were eating. I had zonked out for the beginning of the flight, as is my prerogative. Noticing that my fellow travelers were chowing down inspired me to ask a flight attendant about the possibility of joining in on the jig. I was then presented with a choice: chicken or fish.

“Neither,” I said, “but is there a vegetarian option?”

The answer was no. So in place of chicken or fish I received two servings of a grain (bulgur?) salad, a roll, butter, two packets of dry Israeli cracker-like snacks, and a kif-kef (Kit Kat). It was fine, but not something to dwell on.

FOOD 2:

I have no idea at what point in the flight this was, I just knew I was barely awake and kind of hungry. On the menu were sandwiches.

“Tuna?” offered the flight attendant.

“Vegetarian?” I countered.

The vegetarian option was a sun-dried tomato spread on a square of Bulgarian cheese between bread. Also, a mekupelet (yum!).

This snack was pretty bad.

FOOD 3:

At around 21:00 the crew distributed the final meal, which was definitely breakfast, despite it being night for all the passengers. This was unequivocally the best United had to offer: seasoned omelet, little cubed potatoes, and grilled zucchini. Accompanied by bad coffee, it was clear this was our wake up call.

I don’t like zucchini. I know that I don’t like zucchini, yet that did not stop me from trying the zucchini thrice until I surmised what I already knew: I don’t like zucchini. The eggs and the potatoes were yummy and the coffee was offensive.

All in all, this was no flight for the foodie. There was food, but it was nothing to write about despite me doing quite that.

Perhaps more exciting was that the flight was nearly empty. I got my own row. I showed to the airport at 08:00 and breezed through the airport circuit in a little over an hour. Being Israeli at an Israeli airport has its perks.

I got my inaugural almond croissant from Ilan’s Flying Cafe (name?) and strolled onto my flight without a wait. On the flight I slept enough, ate too much sugar, read a few pages of my book, and watched The Shape of Water. Incredible what you can do in 11 hours on an aircraft.

the frivolity of tp

When I try to explain what I studied in college, I use toilet paper as a starting off point. Toilet paper is a commodity. It is something unnecessary in our lives that has adapted into something viewed as essential. We don’t need toilet paper. We need food, water, shelter, and security. Once the basics are met, all else is superfluous. We have conditioned ourselves to believe that the nonessential, like toilet paper, is essential. Toilet paper has become a commodity–something that once did not have value until it evolved into something consumed without much thought.

From toilet paper I then tiptoe into more theoretical terms, as my degree had little to do with toiletries. Toilet paper has become something that we think we need, and so too has culture. Culture is a commodity. We take culture for granted, expecting new variants of it to be produced to feed our pseudo-need. Music isn’t essential, but it is a commodity, part of the culture industry. Culture and toilet paper are not the same, but they are both commodities.

A few weeks ago I was explaining the process of commodification to my ulpan class. I used my toilet paper example. This week, a peer in the same class was telling us about growing up in Venezuela. In Venezuela, there is no toilet paper, he said. There hasn’t been for years. Porque? Because in a country with so much corruption and crime, all the basics aren’t met. Food and security are not guaranteed. There isn’t enough food in the country, my classmate told us, and it isn’t safe. In a place like Venezuela, commodities are luxuries and toilet paper doesn’t exist.

I signed up for this

At the bratty age of 16, I used to complain my way through Israel, jokingly remarking, “I didn’t sign up for this.” As a teen, it was in reference to things out of my control like a long hike or being held hostage in Haifa for four days too many. I complained about the cucumbers and the country’s weird obsession with cheese. Why did the Israelis have to be so…Israeli? These grievances were always coupled with a myriad of reasons that I loved Israel, yet I expressed them nonetheless.

This time around, I did sign up for this. I filled out the forms and marched my way into the lishkat giyus and enlisted myself into an army. This time my woes are more legitimate yet less relevant. I want to complain about the army? I chose to draft. I want to complain about the country? I chose to move here.

I have adapted to accept my circumstances and be at peace with my decisions. Israelis and bureaucracy and daily life don’t faze me anymore. I have acclimated and conditioned myself to assume the Israeli reality with which I am presented. Despite my adjustments, I have recently encountered uncharacteristic annoyances that I haven’t been able to brush off:

  1. Israeli Customer Service
    • While I expect bad Israeli customer service, I don’t always anticipate that I am to blame for whatever problem arises.
    • Technicians came to replace my air conditioner. I was alerted of this an hour before their arrival. When they arrived, I was bombarded with questions about why I didn’t move all of my furniture and remove everything from my wall to accommodate them. I should have known that I needed to destroy my entire apartment before they came. I also needed to put a sheet on my bed so it wouldn’t get dirty; when my bed subsequently did get dirty, it was my fault for not covering it, not theirs for dirtying it. Apologies for being the customer.
    • Prior to my AC replacement, I informed my landlord and my real estate agent (who has somehow become the point person for my apartment troubles lmk) that my AC didn’t work. “Well, is it set to cold? Maybe you didn’t turn it on properly. Is it plugged in? Check the filters.” Following these inquiries, a technician came to check the legitimacy of my worries. “It works,” he said, feeling air emit. “It’s not cold,” I told him. “You have it set too low, of course it can’t cool the entire apartment!” Apologies for expecting my AC to cool my entire apartment and work properly. I am also sorry for my shoddy knowledge of centigrade (17? 20? 23? Sure.).
    • My old landlord is the embodiment of Israeli customer service. One of the reasons that I left my old apartment is because things started to get shifty in management. After weeks of not responding to messages about a broken stove, my roommates and I finally received a message from our property manager that she would no longer be managing the apartment; the new guy would reach out shortly. In short, this woman had been pocketing our rent into her own bank account instead of to the company’s account, which as it turns out is illegal. She was getting sued. None of this was my problem, yet somehow in every meeting I have had with the new old landlord, he has lamented about his lapse in attention, guilting me for paying less than the expected price for my room. Sorry for not knowing that the woman was whack and that she didn’t have the authority to negotiate with me. Apologies for his inattention to his assets, I am sorry he did not know who was living in his apartments for six months and where the rent was going.
    • In my last meeting with my new old landlord, I snapped. He whined about his misfortune and I told him, “I am sorry that this happened to you, but I don’t care. I don’t want to hear any more about it. This is not my problem.” Earlier in the meeting he had also belittled my misuse of a Hebrew word, which is when I stopped accommodating him by using my second language and bulldozed in English. English is a power move. I have the most control in English; I am the most poised and articulate in English. In a very poised and articulate manner, I exclaimed, “You are not listening to me!” He was not listening to me. Apologies for him being bad at business and for my imperfect Hebrew. Apologies that Americans are not receptive to being swindled, especially when they feel disrespected and unacknowledged.
    • I am an Israeli. My work falls within the customer service umbrella. If I approached customer service the Israeli way, I would be sent to army jail. The Israeli approach isn’t applicable when it comes to diplomacy, nor should it be when dealing with educated Americans who know what they deserve.
  2. I went on an army bonding trip and we went rafting in the river. Somehow I forgot that rafting is a wet activity. I wore Blundstone’s and leggings. I made it clear that I did not want to get wet. This declaration of course spurred my Lt. Colonel to drag me into the water by the back of my life jacket, others following suit to ensure my dreams of dryness were crushed.

As I enter my last few months of service at the ripe age of 23, I blame myself in true Israeli customer service fashion and adopt a new mantra: “I signed up for this.” Here, the customer is always wrong.

The Limits of Re-Moving

For the second time in 6 months, I moved. First it was off the kibbutz and into the city; now it was from the city to the same city, down the street to the right. I had to move. So I repacked up all my things, enlisted the army’s aid, and re-moved.

In my process of re-moving, I learned that I can’t lift. It’s always jarring to realize a limit, especially when in your mind you can visualize yourself eating the entire laffa or being able to make it through all of Scarface, an inherently bad and dated movie. It’s frustrating to encounter physical roadblocks that you can’t overcome. I pride myself on my independence, so the discovery that I have to rely on others for something so seemingly simple as lifting was dismaying.

My new apartment is on the last floor up after three or four long flights of stairs. It’s a pain, and I was in pain after reaching my limit. I am now bruised and battered and on my way to being broke with the near doubled rent. My legs are smattered in blue and my biceps ache. Despite my effort, my body could not match what my brain was demanding of it.

A quarter of the way from the old and to the new, I had to stop. I could not carry a bookcase. My teammate who lifted the other side of the shelf didn’t need to pause – she could have made it to my new apartment in one go. It was I who recognized in that moment, as we passed by Israelis who criticized us for not using a cart, that my strength had a limit.

One of the critical onlookers approached us and asked if he could help.

“Yes, please!” I exclaimed.

He called over to the owner of a produce shop and asked to borrow a cart (for crates, not shopping). My bookshelf was eased onto the cart and brought up all the stairs by my friend and this man who could do something I couldn’t.

(Later, another man helped with a wooden dining table – something with which I didn’t even endeavor to assume).

I am healthy and determined and now aware that when interviewing for jobs, I can add lifting to my list of inconsequential weaknesses.

Limits and their acceptance are aspects of adulthood. So is living alone in a big girl apartment with big girl rent and no one to hear the shriek of a roach sighting. I’ll figure it out, but I’ll leave the lifting to someone else.

Fake

I might be dissociating. Sometimes when I walk out of my room on base at night I think I’m on a movie set. The artificial grass, the concrete, the staged glow of spotlights. It’s too illuminated to be night. It’s too temperate to be outside. There is no breeze, no wind, no movement. Everything feels so controlled, so posed, so still. When no one is around, it’s all fake.

Between Jericho and Jordan

There’s a path that leads to the known unknown. I know that the path leads to Jericho, but I’ll never know Jericho the way the way I know Herzliya or Haifa or Hadera—I’ll never know it with my own eyes. I know the sign, slightly ominous, leading into forbidden land. Yet the same sign marks that if Jericho isn’t your path, maybe Jordan is. Across the entrance to Jericho, after a strip of I90, through the prickly dust and trucks and to a familiar post. It’s Russian it’s Arab it’s Israeli, all working together without tension, just procedure. Belts off, shoes switched, phone and wallet on the table. Tag flashed, gate lifted, hand waved. Soldiers inspect, shit is shot, cigarettes smoked, and coffee drank. Flag down a car, hop in, wind down through constellations of stone and sediment. Another gate, another wave. A rotary, a roundabout, around and out. Or maybe you go straight, past more gates, another, and over and you’re there. I can’t talk about what’s there, but I know better than I know about the there in Jericho. I know there are good people and sugary tea and strong coffee. The same scenery, copied, as if the river between were a mirror at midpoint, projecting the same to both sides. The same stone and sediment, valleyed, volleyed. If you didn’t know, you could mistake Jericho for Jordan.

Welcome to the ‘butz, babes

As a new generation of near Israelis prepare to embark on their journey home, there’s a few things y’all should know about your new home. Having distanced myself physically and mentally and emotionally from what was once mine and will soon be yours, I like to think I have a somewhat helpful perspective.

The first (1) thing you should know is how to get home. The first time it’s going to involve a plane and maybe a train and definitely a bus and a car or two. But after that, it’s up to you to simplify the trek. These days, I take the 501 to the Central Bus Station (CBS) in TLV and then ride the 379 all the way home. Or I make things more complicated and get to the CBS and take a bus to Ashkelon, get off at Tzomet Ashkelon and wait for a 364, 36, 365, 465 etc. and ride back. There’s also the train, but I haven’t tried that yet since moving to the Mercaz back in January.

Once I get to the Erez bus stop, there’s a walk waiting for me. It’s about a kilometer, with a tall wall to your left and fields to your right. At the beginning of the path, the train speeds by overhead. Then it’s 10 minutes until the wall ends and a road begins. The road leads to ק2, the closest base to Gaza. That’s also where the sunflower fields are! After the road, you reach the clementine groves and you’re practically there. It’s the yellow gate, a phone call to open it, or typing the code into the keypad. (If you’re lucky, you can forego the walk and snag a tremp along the way).

You enter past the yellow gate and to your left is the huge expanse of soccer field and the “plastic” factory that I cannot confirm actually produces “plastic”. To your right is a path along the fence, following the clementines. You keep walking forward and to your right is a road. The road inclines upwards and is framed by houses. Eventually on the right is a the kibbutz Clalit. To the left is a path that leads up to picnic tables and grass and the cute tower the kids build one Yom Haaztmaut. Past the tower there’s a bunker and a water tower (please don’t climb it) and another water tower and picnic tables and a new fire pit and an incredible view of our fields and Gaza. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After the path and the Clalit there’s a colored bomb shelter. It’s nice, but ours is nicer. You keep going and to your right you see trees and an expanse of grass and the community moadon and the heart of the kibbutz. To your left, the Erez museum with renovated cabins from the kibbutz’s founding, filled with artifacts of an Israel that was and ruins and rocket remnants. Then, after the museum is our bomb shelter. We painted it. We were miserable painting it, in the heat, right before we were supposed to leave for an open Shabbat. But it’s beautiful and it was ours.

To your right is a dirt path. I take the path out of laziness and practically run down the small hill to the megurim, to your new home. It’s build in a ח. The first floor is two rooms on each side, parallel, with a brick courtyard. There’s a covered walkway between the two sides that leads to a storage room, a sitting area (kibbutz couches and a glass table that I repainted during my work from home tenure), the boys’ fridge, and the laundry machines. The dryers are by the far room on the right.

If you go back to the middle walkway, you go up stairs. There are three rooms, the girls’ fridge, and a seating area on the balcony with a table that I painted and mosaic’ed during the good old corona days. My room was the first.

(*Note: every room has a bomb shelter, which is a separate room with a door, if you’re into that kind of thing. There is a small kitchenette by the entrance aka a sink and cabinets and a kumkum. Separate toilet and shower. Air conditioning. Build-in closet and a wardrobe, distribute as you see fit. Don’t bring all your clothes – save that for your first meyuchedet. Make your room feel like home, because that’s where you’re going to come crashing down on the weekends after an exhausting week on base. Put up posters. Try not to wreck the walls like I did, whoooooops).

You go down the stairs and head back to the couches, the left side of the rooms. There’s another path. It’s the official path to get home if you don’t want to deal with the dirt. Left is the pool (AMAZING pool with plenty of space to tan and a snack bar – don’t get the boys aka Eric started on the snack bar), straight is our moadon/library/seniors moadon. To the left of our moadon is a small basketball court, some of the kids’ moadons and the bunny/guinea pig enclosure. There’s also kind of a sad mini playground with bars for dips.

Turn around and go back to the established path, but take a left to the pool. You’re on the main road. After the pool there’s an outside gym, like the ones that dot the beaches of Israel. Then the main basketball court and a tennis court. The road curves. After the courts there’s another path that leads to what used to be the kibbutz zoo. The zoo is no more and in its place is relics and the home of the Erez peacocks, who most definitely have Stockholm syndrome from their captivity. But back to the road.

Houses to your right, another path to the left that leads up to the andarta, a memorial site perfect for watching sunsets and fireworks from our neighbors. You keep going down and before you is the New Neighborhood. Gorgeous houses. Amazing people. In the left corner of the New Neighborhood is the blue gate. It leads to the back road and to Erez Crossing and you can only open it with the weight of the car. Disregard.

The path curves again and the New Neighborhood is to your left and on your right is more houses, and where I believe those staying on the kibbutz from my year will be living. Keep going and follow the next curve, with the farm to your left. There are cows and bees and it smells bad and you’re more than welcome to visit, but it might lose its novelty if you go too often. Past the farm is the water tower, where you will one day put the name of your garin (it can’t be Garin Erez – trust me, we tried) so that even when you’re not home, part of you is still there.

If you continue down the road you end up at the yellow gate. It’s a circle. So instead, before the water tower, you turn to the right. It’s a parking lot with the mazkirut (that’s where you get your mail, try not to be too annoying about checking on packages like I was) and the bus stop. The bus that comes into the kibbutz is 27. VERY IMPORTANT. It takes you into Sderot without you having to make the 20 minute walk past the wall and the clementines.

Straight ahead is the center of the kibbutz. Chadar ohel to your left (it’s not often in use because the kibbutz is privatized but it has the BEST bomb shelter on the kibbutz, believe you me), followed by the big moadon. This is a space for community. To the right is the migvan. They only have beer and wine, so stay tuned for my favorite places to get alcohol in Sderot. There’s also food. It’s a mini grocery store. Fresh produce. Ice cream. A dream.

Next to the migvan is a good playground. Keep going past the playground and you’ve hit the pub (there’s a Roman mosaic on the way, but pay no mind). The pub is an ancient building. There’s no air conditioning, only fans (lol). It’s exactly what you would expect a kibbutz pub to look like – quaint and close and comfortable. Bring cash. PAY ON THE SPOT. The kibbutz might be your home, but try to keep it that way by not doing anything as to discomfort the locals. There is alcohol at the pub.

And there concludes a selective overview of the kibbutz. Welcome home.

The second (2) thing you should know is that the kibbutz is SAFE. 800 meters away from Gaza or not, it’s safe. Yes, sometimes there are rockets. Yes, the first and even the eighth can be scary. Yes, your parents are going to worry. But you will be OKAY. I was living in Israel at the end of Protective Edge, so the rockets never really fazed me. You have just a few seconds to run to a shelter, but luckily there’s one in your room. Rockets don’t happen every day. The other thing is because the ‘butz’s proximity, a lot of the time rockets go over us. You can be outside and live and enjoy your kibbutz fantasy without having to live in fear. If you live in fear, then they win. If you are still afraid, it’s okay, we can work on that.

Number three (3) is kibbutz highlights, I suppose: there’s a beer festival featuring artisanal beer made by kibbutz members, hella BBQs, every holiday is a celebration, the people are so kind and want to get to know you – lean into it and meet as many people as you can. The kids will love you. They love the silly American soldiers and they’ll learn your names before you even meet them. Your host families are there to help – don’t be shy. Talya is amazing. Period. Don’t get mad at her for doing her job, she’s there to help you and will go to the ends of Erez and beyond for you. Speak Hebrew. SPEAK HEBREW. SPEAK HEBREW!!! You’re going to get annoyed with your garin and that’s okay. You’re going to get annoyed with my garin, which is also okay (tell them to ‘uck off when they need to – they can handle it). Sderot is 10 minutes away. Nir Am is a neighboring kibbutz with a bigger pub that I hear is nice but have yet to experience for myself. Beer Sheva is 40 minutes away. Tel Aviv is an hour or more, but your access to transportation is an asset and be thankful for it. Hot lifeguard? Dogs.

Sderot (4). Before coming to Erez, Sderot was always a spectacle. Like oh wow so sad rockets hummus bathroom break. Now, Sderot is about to become your city. At the entrance of Sderot is the train and Mall7. There’s subpar sushi that delivers to the ‘butz (for 40 shek) and other food and stores and Big (random house things, where I got most of my gems), grocery store with a nice deal on Ben & Jerry’s. There’s also the alcohol store. It’s nice.

Past Mall7 you get to Peres Center, where there’s Clalit and Shufersal and some bureaucratic offices and other stores. Take a left and you’re in the perfect spot for food. Hummus Shel Tachina is regionally renowned. Zeh Burger has a dank impossible burger. There’s another grocery store. A scary Mexican restaurant that I can’t recall anyone ever visiting. Huri Bakery that was hit by a rocket once and rebuilt. Bank Hapoalim. Phone kiosks, one where the owner replaced my battery on Saturday night even though he was officially closed. Saba Simcha – veggie/vegan BLISS. And my favorite store: the Russian grocery store. This was where I purchased the majority of my alcohol, that was of course not consumed during the program or anywhere near my room because that isn’t allowed. 90%. 95%. Israeli Diesel/Everclear they gotchu. That’s Sderot.

This is my introduction for you. I’ll add more, write some other things for you along the way. I hope this helps you visualize home. Can’t wait to see y’all soon.

An Ode to the Pardi* (*Party)

Today marks what once was my favorite day of the year: the end of Mardi Gras. One may argue that this can’t possibly be the end when today is Mardi Gras. While perhaps true, the beckoning of Mardi Gras itself concludes the culmination of a year’s worth of hype and expectation. That definitive ending was always liberating, allowing distance to begin before the anticipation resurfaced.

The end of Mardi Gras meant I could stop. I could breathe. I could freeze. I could sleep. I could pause and apologize to my body for pushing it to limits unknown. The ending was liberating, despite the departure of temporary, unbridled freedom. Because in reality, the lawlessness and apparent freedom of Mardi Gras came with a price; it was conditional on the pressure to squeeze every last second out of the opportunity. If you were not the Party, you were not doing Mardi Gras correctly. That social and internal stress of wanting and not wanting to make the most of the alternate reality of New Orleans weighed heavy for days until Tuesday, when it was over.

On the seventh day of parades and pandemonium, the Mardi Gras gods (and college students) rested.

The thing about Mardi Gras is that it was always more fun in theory than it ever actually was. I have several friends who would agree that Mardi Gras, quite simply, sucks. It has its merits and novelties, but after the first one, you can never recapture that virginal dazzlement of magic. It isn’t enchanting anymore; it’s war.

You’re at war against your body, putting it through things that you know are fundamentally harmful, compounded on the fleeting freedom. If not now, when? For a week, I became a Mardi Gras marathoner who sprinted too hard in the middle, collapsing before the finish line.

New Orleans is awful during Mardi Gras. Ubers are a hundred dollars. A million people who don’t know the space or the culture or the rules flood the city. Your favorite bars aren’t worth visiting because they’re filled with students from Georgia and Texas who have a skewed understanding of Mardi Gras. The streets are overflowing with people and nothing is open. It’s like a snowstorm, but with parades instead of flurries and flakes.

In this less than idyllic setting, you’re told to have fun. Live it up. Cover yourself in glitter and temporary tattoos (maybe that was just me?) and drink and stay drunk until it’s over. This is not a sustainable way of living, yet I did it, thrice.

When I think back to Mardi Gras, it’s with a veil of chaos that I don’t need to relive. I’ll go back to New Orleans and I’ll probably do Mardi Gras again, but it won’t be the same. I won’t be a student, so I won’t have to run in the race. I’ll be able to go at my own pace, enjoying without the stress.

There were aspects of Mardi Gras that I loved, like the sense of community in meeting strangers and playing dress up. But I don’t miss getting in the back of a U-Haul van driven by a non-sober freshman pledge or the heat or the hunger or the crowd. There’s nothing in the world like Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and that’s okay.

Certain aspects of Mardi Gras have stayed with me, like the crafts and glitter, while other pieces like my alcohol tolerance and desire to be out (when it was an option) past 1 AM I’ve lost along the way.

As Mardi Gras ends (despite never truly beginning this year because of the pandemic), I’m nostalgic but I don’t miss it. I did it, it’s done, I’ll do it again, but never in the same capacity. Living outside of that cycle of expectation has its freedom, too. Mardi Gras isn’t a requirement in my life anymore, but rather something fond that will be there if I ever want it.

Little Women: A New England Fairytale

This week I stumbled upon the 2019 adaptation of Little Women while browsing through Netflix. I eagerly clicked, wary of its 2-hour run time. Nevertheless, I pushed through with my ever-waning attention span. I couldn’t stop smiling as I was transported to a very specific nostalgia of my youth. While it felt like the characters in the film were painted in broad strokes, my memory couldn’t quite piece together why their portrayals seemed vague. I was overtaken by this distant recollection of growing up in New England and reading abridged tales of the March sisters. I don’t remember all the plot lines or the exact idiosyncrasies of the girls, but watching the film felt like sitting before a lit fireplace – lulling, comforting, and familiar. Though I couldn’t pinpoint particulars, there was something so homey about the narrative. I had almost definitely done an elementary school project on Louisa May Alcott, her work quintessential to a little woman’s upbringing in New England. Watching these characters on the screen gave me hazy flashbacks to the Little Women coloring book of my youth. It was a true New England fairytale, the sisters just as much princesses as Snow White or Cinderella. Yet unlike the Disney girls, there was a different fondness that came over me as I was reintroduced to Jo, Amy, Meg, and Beth. Their story is part of mine, and it was delightful to meet the girls again in this charming performance.

United in-flight food review

During my last flight to Israel nearly a year and a half ago I penned a piece entitled “EL-AL in-flight food review.” Please enjoy this companion piece and feel free to cross-analyze the two experiences.

PRE-FLIGHT PRE-GAME

Prior to boarding, I purchased a mocha coffee drink in a can and paired it with a blueberry muffin that possessed too much zest for my liking.

DINNER

In a pandemic the notion of eating on a plane is tricky. Do you risk possibly contracting the virus or infecting other passengers OR do you starve? Most of the flyers on this flight elected the former, even going to such lengths to risk it all without masks for the entire duration of the flight.

It began with water and coffee.

Then plastic-wrapped kosher meals were distributed to the vast majority of customers. I inquired about a non-kosher vegetarian meal for myself, to which I was instructed to wait until the kosher meals were distributed. I waited. My veggies never came. I harangued a flight attendant after nearly crying over my neglect. Then I finally received my meal:

⁃ The entrée was manicotti with spinach and mushrooms. I ate the perhaps odd choice for an international flight, obviously scraping away the mushrooms.

⁃ As a side there was something (bulgur, perhaps) that tasted faintly like charoset that I didn’t take to

⁃ There was a roll that excited me until it touched my tastebuds and I promptly removed it from my mouth

⁃ Almonds (?)

⁃ For dessert, I indulged in a surprisingly adequate vanilla bean gelato

BRUNCH

The arrival of the final in-flight meal came at an odd time, as the food wasn’t breakfast-y yet not filling enough to consider a proper lunch. The timing was odd, as the American clock brushed 4 AM while in Tel Aviv it was already past 10:00. Nevertheless, I attempted to eat:

DRINK

⁃ Water

LIGHT MEAL

⁃ Some combination of veggies that tasted like tabouli that I had to taste twice to ensure I was not a fan

⁃ What I can only assume to be United’s over-seasoned attempt at falafel, hummus, and mini pitas

It was gross.

If I were to grant United a letter grade on their culinary pursuits, I would have to award them a hard C+. While there was intention behind the dishes, the edibility was lacking.