Incredibly enough on precisely the second occasion that humans ever flew, they went up drinking. It was December 1, 1783, and as a crowd containing King Louis XVI of France and Benjamin Franklin watched, the physicist Jacques Charles handed his fellow aeronaut Nicholas-Louis Robert a glass just a moment before liftoff. As the ropes were let go and the balloon began to rise, Charles popped the cork on a bottle of Champagne, filled their glasses, and together they toasted the crowd and the miracle of flight.
That had a certain quality of…savoir faire. Style. Panache. And in fact the food eaten aloft after that second flight abounded with style, panache, savoir faire, and oftentimes savor as well. It was often–no, typically–eaten in tremendous quantities. Nice groceries, and lots of them: that could have been the motto of eating in the air.
Needless to say, when most of us travel this summer, that won’t be the motto of our airline’s dining service. We feel very fortunate to get peanuts and a soda. So what exactly happened?
My guest, Richard Foss, has written the first-ever book devoted to the history of eating in the air and space (appropriately enough titled Food in the Air and Space: The Surprising History of Food and Drink in the Skies.) He’s eminently qualified to do so, having authored many articles on culinary history. Additionally he’s the California Curator of the Museum of the American Cocktail, and the author of Rum: A Global History. (He’s also curated and introduced the links below.)
For Further Investigation
• The Foss Files, Richard Foss’ website
• Richard Foss’s website devoted to “food in air and space”.
• “The Pan Am Historical Foundation has online archives”
• “The world’s most obsessive archive about airline meals, with over 38,000 pictures of airline food”:
• “Everything about zeppelins and dirigibles.”
• “The best archive about flying boats is the Foynes Flying Boat Museum in Ireland.”