Dana finds it remarkable that I still hold such affinity for airplane food. Every flight, I look forward to the moment when the elbow-jarring rolling dinner cart comes steaming down the aisle. Now it’s filled with purchase-on-demand cold turkey and cheese sandwiches, but there was a time — I swear it — when the rolling cart teemed with hot, delicious meats: salisbury steaks smothered in gelatinous gravy or maybe a makeshift thanksgiving dinner, with moist turkey and cranberry sauce on the side.
“I tell you,” I say to Dana on every flight, “It used to be so good!”
“What am I going to blame your crazy on now that you’re not drinking?“
We had a nine hour flight to London, before taking a delayed connection to Rome — all in all, a 17-hour day of traveling. Near the end of our first flight, the dinner cart came rumbling down the aisle and the steward deposited cardboard containers of cold sandwiches and sweaty snack cheese onto our trays. Dana and I gingerly picked over the offerings like a doctor might poke around some fetid boil. We crinkled our noses and pushed the boxes away, while a tiny voice squealed in the seat between us.
“Oh my goodness!” the voice said, “Cheese! And bread! Oh my goodness!”
“Would you like mine as well?”
“Oh my goodness! I’m such a lucky girl!”
She gobbled up a yogurt cup and devoured a miniature sandwich. It was as if we had never fed her — not just that day, but ever.
“Is this all for me?”
We nodded and she wrapped her arms around the food, resting her head on the cardboard box as if squeezing a favored stuffed animal. It occurred to me in that moment that airplane food was never actually good. The salisbury steak had always been cold. The turkey never moist. It just took the wonder-power of childhood imagination and innocence to make it so.
Everything on this trip has been painted in delight and awe. The flights were long and cramped for us, but we couldn’t help but smile over the delight found in a simple pair of complimentary eye shades. The trains were uniformly late, but did you see those pigeons on the tracks? “They’re just like our pigeons!” The gelato shops were filled with neon and nowhere near the quality we have come to expect after painstaking reproducing the best of David Lebovitz, but good lord man, “They give you two flavors!”
She has peeled away our cynicism, stripped us of our contempt for even the sorriest of Rick Steves’ acolytes, their marshmallow shoes and hip wallets so ripe for mocking. And yet, we had to admit, their fold-out maps were pretty.
She has stripped us naked. A country we had seen two times before is suddenly new again. Our familiar haunts are more inviting than we remembered. The food is tastier, even the greasy offerings in the menu touristico. Everything is a wonder. Everything is a delight.
Everything is magic.
I’ve updated the photo page with some new photos and will continue to do so over the next week. We’re in a coastal town right now and will be off to Rome in a few days. There are two things I have to show her: San Crispino gelato and Michelangelo’s Pieta. In that order.