Though this entrée is quite normal in an aluminum tube 39,000 feet high above Vietnam, I am not so sure it would fly in America. First off, I had eschewed the fish for chicken in hopes bird served on a plane would be a lot different than miles below on the street. Now I am not complaining at all about free food. I am just reporting things as I taste them.
The Vietnamese lap up these fine delights like there’s no tomorrow, and I even see customers carting the tin foil containers off the plane. Why do they feel so compelled to save some mess that likely will have been festering in that e. coli temperature sweet spot for hours on end by the time they arrive home with risk of eventual gastronomical distress? An inquisition into this need to hoard a tiny piece of fish is a story for another day though.
Our purser delivered our meals to the flight deck, and I eagerly peeled away the finger burning hot tin foil lid. The Vietnamese exclamation “Choi oi!” was all I could think when I stared at the bird blobs. With surgical precision I cut away the fatty layers that even still contained vestiges of their host such as thin hair. Even the goose pimple texture made me question why this was a good choice. Oddly enough the fat peeled right off. Normally it adheres to everything with superglue tenacity.
A small bone bursting forth from a chunk of flab incited me to expel another round of choi oi, choi oi, choi oi. I got to thinking what if this had been a flight in America. First off, the customer, and most likely a customer of size, would swallow the bone and choke while complaining the meal was too small. With the bone firmly lodged in his throat, the plane would divert somewhere. Then the TSA would be all upset the customer had secreted a dangerous bone deep inside him that could potentially be used as a weapon.
The media would hype it while congressional hearings further exposed the dangers of bones. After people sued anyone and everyone and special interest groups feigned their supposed outrage, the TSA would mandate security screenings for chicken shivs. Yes, a chicken bone in an American meal would be a disastrous menace to the public welfare.
With all this potential drama swirling around in my head, I gave thanks the bone had landed in my meal and that I alone had the power to save the world by placing it in the trashbag. I took one bite of the remaining dry meat secreted between two layers of glistening, juicy, opaque gelatinous fat. Slices of red hot chili peppers adhered to the fatty outer layer and I tried my best to transfer them to the more edible meat portions. What can I even compare this taste to? I know…remember those fried chicken patties in school lunches?
The steamed rice, vegetables and spicy sauce were all quite decent. But that chicken…I just put the lid back on it and called it a day.