What is the "perfect" post-flight meal?
August 18, 2020 9:21 AM   Subscribe

You are an anxious traveler arriving late at night after a long flight. No restaurants are open and you haven't eaten a thing on your flight (due to Covid concerns) so when you arrive you are ravenous. What would be the ideal snack/meal waiting for you in the car when you're picked up?

A few criteria to consider:
  • Portability and ease of eating while sitting in the passenger seat is critical.
  • Whatever the meal is, it's most likely going to have to be cold. So this rules out things like pizza which some people are fine being cold, but not in this scenario..
  • Dietary restrictions are a factor: Must be gluten-free and while not quite dairy-free, cheese has to be kept to a minimum.
  • Extra points for a complementary beverage suggestion.
  • Extra points if you have a good recipe that makes use of some of the fruits and veggies in season right now: tomatoes and peaches in particular.
posted by jeremias to Food & Drink (37 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Scrambled eggs. Keep warm in a thermos.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:26 AM on August 18, 2020

Someone is tasked with making this for you? This is delicious and hits most of your requirements save the tomatoes: https://www.halfbakedharvest.com/rosemary-chicken-caramelized-corn-and-peach-salad/

Cream soda to drink?
posted by poppunkcat at 9:31 AM on August 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would not give an anxious person with an empty stomach anything you'd call a meal just before a long car ride. Maybe their favourite kind of cookie and half a glass of wine?
posted by mhoye at 9:35 AM on August 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

I would want a breakfast burrito -- eggs, sausage, maybe a few veggies, and some potatoes. Can use a corn flower or gluten-free wrap. Cup of OJ, and maybe a great cup of coffee.
posted by chiefthe at 9:37 AM on August 18, 2020 [8 favorites]

I would crave something filling and savory, so for me a cold rice noodle salad would hit the spot. My preferred toppings would be spicy ground pork, kimchee, a slew of fresh veggies like radishes and carrots, and some spicy mustard greens or the like. (Paired with seltzer and warm tea in a thermos. Or a beer, if I’m not driving. ) You could customize the toppings to your preferred flavors; the nice thing is the comfort of a big bowl of noodles.
posted by minervous at 9:38 AM on August 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

I'd go for something like chacuterie. A small selection of meats, cheeses etc. A peach cut up. Tomato slices with salt, and some good bread with butter or crackers. Something easy to graze on, or to pick and choose what might sit on an empty tummy. A large bottle of water, a thermos of tea, and an orange juice.
posted by Ftsqg at 9:54 AM on August 18, 2020 [20 favorites]

These days, I think because of the heat and also some stomach issues, I am constantly craving summer rolls. I live near a place where they make them prettier than I can, and at a reasonable price, but they are not hard to make. If you haven't tried making them, keep them a bit small which makes them easier to handle. Good with home made iced tea, lemonade or with a beer.
I have some little soft cooler bags that are ideal for 1-person snacks or lunches. I think I bought them at Flying Tiger or Aldi.
posted by mumimor at 9:55 AM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

The gluten free makes it significantly harder, as my default for such a situation is a bagel or pizza slice.
my thoughts:

1. A simple homemade BLT on GF bread with a fruit juice; peach as a side
2. Onigiri and green tea would hit the spot
3. Those protein boxes you can pick up at a Starbucks (or DIY your own protein/grazing box)
posted by larthegreat at 9:56 AM on August 18, 2020

Gluten and dairy free, good cold: Vietnamese spring (aka fresh aka salad) rolls. It's a substantial chew, that ultra-fresh mint/basil bite, lots of peanut sauce. Ideally the ones you can get from a Vietnamese restaurant or deli, but the ones from Trader Joe's or grocery deli sushi case would do, for me, at midnight when I'm starving.

Some peach slices macerated in a bit of sugar, maybe with some blueberries, possibly sprinkled with granola? Glorious dessert.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:59 AM on August 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

I would absolutely do an easily portable grab-bag,with gluten-free choices, everything already cut up and ready to go: some salty stuff like nuts and crackers; some sweet stuff like cookies, berries, grapes; some charcuterie stuff like (minimal) cheese and salami, etc.; something fun like a childish candy; a few drink selections like a soda, bottled water, juice and a single serving of wine.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:59 AM on August 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

A tupperware of chicken salad would be my choice.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:59 AM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Vegetarian sushi rolls, or Korean Kimbap, also a refreshing fruit like watermelon.
posted by stray at 10:00 AM on August 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Only thing I want after a long night flight is something 'bright' to cleanse my soul.

- A nice salad (add meat if they're into that) in a wrap.
- A lemonade/applejuice/pineapple kinda drink.
- An orange or apple-- or fruit cut cup.

Happy camper.
posted by Static Vagabond at 10:00 AM on August 18, 2020

Cold schnitzel please
posted by JJZByBffqU at 10:23 AM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

A hearty salad sounds GREAT. I always crave fresh food after a long day of traveling (but needs to have plenty of calories too!).
posted by mekily at 10:24 AM on August 18, 2020

I generally want something plain or at least easy-ish to digest when I'm nervous or after a big presentation. Clif bars suit this need for me; YM (and flavor preference) MV.

And since I usually feel hung over after a flight (despite not drinking) due to the dry air, hangover cure is best - OJ or V8.
posted by notsnot at 10:25 AM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Seconding the veggie sushi rolls or Vietnamese fresh rolls. Nothing oily or pungent, just a good mix of soft & crunchy. And a nectarine.
posted by oxisos at 10:25 AM on August 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I always just want fresh fruits and vegetables after a long trip, so I like the idea of a big smoothie including those peaches (could use a non-dairy base).
posted by eponym at 10:52 AM on August 18, 2020

A PBJ on really good gluten-free bread, honestly. The problem with that is sourcing the bread. In years of searching I have yet to find gluten- free bread in a store that doesn’t taste like wee little slices of yeast-flavored kitchen sponge, but if you happen to have a good GF bakery nearby, you’d be doing someone a favor. Being able to just sit down and eat a sandwich without worry can make you giddy with freedom.
posted by corey flood at 11:03 AM on August 18, 2020

I don't have a strong opinion about the meal, but for the beverage - get a nice fresh juice, one of the ones that's kind of spendy. Flying is draining and getting some electrolytes back in your system is such a relief afterward.
posted by bile and syntax at 12:21 PM on August 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

I usually desperately want a cup of coffee after a long flight. And my choice for the food constraints you list would be sushi or onigiri. I'm now kicking myself for all those times I flew long-haul and *didn't* head straight for somewhere selling takeout sushi.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 12:25 PM on August 18, 2020

I don't know what you mean by a long flight, but people often don't feel very well if they haven't eaten all day and an actual meal is likely to come back up, particularly while riding in a car, especially if the person is anxious.

I'd bring plain crackers, a selection of bottled beverages and maybe some hot tea, and a small cooler with a selection of packaged snacks. Include plenty of water and maybe an electrolyte drink too, because they probably haven't been drinking fluids either.

I definitely wouldn't bring anything that seemed like I went to special trouble to prepare it, because sometimes people feel pressured to eat such things even if they aren't feeling up to it. You can put a fresh cold peach in the cooler.

I see a few people above suggesting alcoholic beverages -- in my state, it's a violation of the open container laws even if the driver isn't holding the beverage, which isn't likely to be something an anxious person is comfortable with. While I don't know the laws in other states, I'd be pretty shocked and uncomfortable if someone offered me a glass of wine for me to drink while they were driving, and I'd wonder if the driver had been drinking while waiting for me. Maybe it's more of an ordinary thing in other places for passengers to drink though.
posted by yohko at 12:30 PM on August 18, 2020 [8 favorites]

I often have a terrible headache after flying, I suspect due to a combination of altitude/motion sickness and dehydration. I would love a Mountain Dew (if I wasn't going directly to sleep). The caffeine helps with headaches and carbs are good for altitude sickness. Add gin if you (or they) like. If they hate that option, go with tonic water, OJ or ginger ale.
For a meal, maybe rice salad with some good vegetables, they've been eating junk all day. Add ham or salami if they eat meat.
posted by 445supermag at 12:51 PM on August 18, 2020

This isn't a direct answer but you might like to consider how what's eaten affects jet-lag (research done at the Argonne National Laboratory). It's helped me reset my internal clock on Europe-California trips; even on a California-India trip with about 12 hours time difference I had little to no jet-lag.

Here's a PDF with details:
posted by anadem at 12:57 PM on August 18, 2020

A big grilled chicken ceasar salad heavy on the dressing (dandelion greens a plus), cold, with plenty of chopped anchovies (YMMV on these, depends on the person), plus some halved hard-boiled eggs, maybe some other things like cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives (pitted). Skip the croutons and parmesan cheese for dietary reasons, unless you find some gluten-free croutons. Some roasted walnuts or almonds on the side. If you're ambitious, a blasamic reduction drizzled on fresh peach slices. Flask of bourbon and iced thermos of the person's preferred juice, iced tea, iced coffee, or other beverage.

Good cold, easy to eat with just a fork, should last a while - it can all be packed in glass tupperware and they can eat from the tupperware, plus nuts come in bags.

Easy on the stomach, gets some nice fresh tastes in to combat the staleness of air travel, good veggies and some fats and protein.
posted by mrgoat at 2:38 PM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I’m usually a little woozy after a long flight and would be thrilled with some beautiful cut up fruit.
posted by tchemgrrl at 3:04 PM on August 18, 2020

A sausage roll, vegetarian in my case, and some grapes.

I get car sick and something fatty actually settles my stomach.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:17 PM on August 18, 2020

A smoothie....blueberries, peaches, almond milk, yogurt if they can eat that.
posted by pinochiette at 3:35 PM on August 18, 2020

- Grapes to settle my stomach and brighten up my mouth.

- Cut up veggies with or without a dip - celery, carrots, grape tomatoes, or ooh my favorite would be cucumbers.

- Any cold sandwich (such as tomato-mozarella, or egg salad, or deli meat & lettuce) with normal, non-challenging bread (none of that fancy eighteen-grain bread that's all chewy and weird), not overfilled with ingredients (so that it's easy to eat in the car without making a mess), preferably cut into triangles (but that's just because I like triangles, you can do rectangles).

- Potato chips because I am a potato chip addict

- Chocolate, same reason as above

- Iced tea or better yet, iced coffee, so that I can stay awake and keep you company as you drive

(Clearly I am assuming this is a long drive and we need a ton of food - if you're just driving 30 minutes to someone's home, then grapes and iced tea should be perfect!)
posted by MiraK at 3:45 PM on August 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I can’t believe how many people are suggesting alcohol on an empty stomach for an anxious person in a moving car. I couldn’t think of anything more likely to make me sicker, quicker. For me, if I was anxious with a potentially dodgy empty stomach, I’d go for something bland to start with like crackers or maybe sourdough bread. Nothings that’s too rich or sweet. If that settles their stomach, then maybe cut vegetables like carrots or celery a bit later.
posted by Jubey at 5:00 PM on August 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Gazpacho in a thermos?
Or some other broth in a thermos?
The cuisine the person grew up will probably be relevant too.
My post-flight favorite meal coming home for the holidays was a big stew pot of kimchi jigae and white rice. (Not very portable in a car, but I have also eaten kimbap post-flight and been delighted to have something savory and veggie focused).
posted by spamandkimchi at 5:20 PM on August 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've had something similar-on trips where I cross multiple timezones, I often wake up at 3AM, starving. I just want something quick and easy to eat, and go right back to sleep. You want to eat something low in sugar and salt, and having some protein and fat.

Cheese, a hard boiled egg, walnuts, and milk are all good choices. Peanut butter and celery can also work well. Some very dark chocolate might also work. Avocado on multigrain toast is another option.
posted by coberh at 12:20 AM on August 19, 2020

This would be my dream meal in this situation:

Hummus, preferably plain or with peppers on top.
Nut thins crackers. I particularly like the almond ones; dip those into the tub of hummus.
Some cut veggies to also dip into the hummus.
Maybe a nice hard boiled egg or two, already peeled.
A nice, chilled, nonalcoholic ginger beer. Ginger can settle a stomach that's upset.
posted by spinifex23 at 12:43 AM on August 19, 2020

I am a nervous flyer. Immediately post-flight I'm elated that it's over. I might also have a headache and feel dehydrated.

If you were picking me up, I'd love to have some sushi (easy to eat just a little and keep the rest for later) and cut up fruit (not fruit salad, in other words no juice or sauce). Hot tea in a flask unless it's hot outside.
posted by M. at 6:56 AM on August 19, 2020

When we travel, we always go for miso soup, sushi, and seaweed salad when we arrive. You could do the miso in a thermos. This would delight me.
posted by Riverine at 10:36 AM on August 19, 2020

These are all great suggestions. As an aside, according to the CDC, the risk of Covid-19 transmission via food or packaging is very low and there is no evidence that food is associated with spreading the virus so that shouldn't be a reason to not eat. If there are other credible sources that claim otherwise, please PLEASE share them.
posted by dozo at 7:50 AM on August 21, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks all, for the suggestions, the following meal ended up being highly appreciated:
  • Grillled shrimp and vegetables (summer squash and zucchini) seasoned with penzey's trinidad style lemon-garlic mix.
  • The latter ingredients were then mixed with gluten-free corn pasta.
A simple but tasty dish that has the benefit of working well at any temperature.

Preferred beverage was basically a white wine spritzer.
posted by jeremias at 5:48 AM on August 22, 2020

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