Friday, September 13, 2013

Airline Travel - The Attrition of Nutrition at the airport


Neva's first flight was at 6 months old, in 2010.  At that time, women had been forced to dump their breast milk, as absolutely no liquids were able to be brought on the plane.  This didn't prove to be a problem for me because I was still breast feeding, and she didn't really use a bottle, but still a disturbing rule, nonetheless.  The next time I flew with her was when she was 15 months old, in February, 2011.  I didn't want to be hassled about Neva's food, so I decided to bring powdered goat milk as a supplement to breast milk.  Once you get through security, there are drinking fountains on the other side.  I simply could put a scoop in a bottle, add water, and baby had nutritious food.

Now, most of the time when you say, "it's for the baby" the TSA begrudgingly rushes you through.  Sometimes they want to test it, which means opening it up.  Bring things that are re-sealable.  Yogurt is the most annoying, as they will open one up, and then you have to eat it right away.  In general, bring food that you won't be too sad that they'll throw away.  One instance, a TSA agent said he was going to throw out all of my food.  I protested loudly and insisted that another agent come over.  He asked how long my flight was, and I replied 8 hours.  He conceded to not throwing away my food.  ALWAYS play the parent card.  I like to bring kefir because it looks like milk, but is like drinkable yogurt and contains the oh-so-important probiotics which I always recommend when entering into the biological war zone that is the airport. Fresh fruits like apples and bananas are great domestically but can be confiscated by the Department of Agriculture internationally, and pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are also quick, easy, straight-forward food choices that don't cause much fuss.

Neva with kefir, granola and dried fruit on the plane.

In another instance, we were going camping in Puerto Rico, and brought lots of camping food in our carry-on.  Checked luggage is charged based on weight, currently 40 pounds (depending on the airline) and carry-on bags don't have a weight limit, only a size limit, so we decided to carry on the heavy stuff.  The TSA ended up throwing away half of our expensive camping food packs because some of them were soupy lentils.  Why having half of what we started with is less of a threat than than all camp food is beyond me.  On the return home, our peanut butter jar was also thrown out.  The agent tested it, and it came up positive for possible explosives.  He explained to me that if we had the jar camping, some soil might have adhered to the jar, which will cause a positive reading.  The agent was very patient and took the time to explain the reasoning behind the confiscation, which I appreciated, and is a very rare trait for the TSA.

The reason for suspicious peanut butter.

You may also notice that there seem to be more layovers than you remember.  Well, airlines don't have to feed you if the flight is less than 6 hours long, so if they can squeeze in a layover to inconvenience you, and not have to relinquish meals, they would rather save the money.  What this means for you is that you're left with terrible tasting, over priced airline food, and you might be the one crying from intestinal cramps on the second leg.  For this reason, in addition to my vegetarian diet, I insist on bringing enough food to sustain my family through to the final destination. Oh yeah, and most airlines don't offer free drinks anymore, so when you finish the bottle of kefir and are stuck at a crappy airport like Fort Lauderdale, you can rinse out your bottle and fill it up with water at the water fountain instead of paying $8 for a bottle of water (not kidding, $8 for a water).

Neva taking in some zzz's for the overnight layover from Lima to Cusco, Peru
The nice thing is that we are all in it together, just trying to make it to our destination.  Jet-lagged, sore and tired, we all shuffle past one another and nod as a universal sign of understanding.  Children make friends pretty quickly, so even among the trivial meandering through an airport terminal, you are still graced with lots of warm smiles...and sometimes delicious homemade food.

A local family offered us a homemade snack, traditional Peruvian holiday pan with bits of colored candy inside.  
More of the airport travel series is coming soon, so stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. I never thought about taking a PB&J on the plane. Good idea. Airport food is expensive, yucky and often full of gluten. Thanks.