'Pan Am' Reminds Us That Airplane Food Used to Be Delicious

pan amFellow passengers, we've come a long way from the glory days of 1960s Pan Am airplane food. It all looks so glamorous and plush on the new ABC series Pan Am. But now when you travel by air, you're lucky if you get a can of soda and a bag of pretzels for free. And even the stuff you pay for isn't all that.

But back in the day, Pan Am passengers didn't just get superior service from flight attendants who looked like Margot Robbie: They also got the posh nosh.

Apparently -- if you can imagine this -- travel was once a luxury experience just for the wealthy. Think china, silverware, linens, buffet tables with roasts. That's right, there was room on the airplane for a freaking buffet table! What else did the Pan Am fat cats of yesteryear eat?


Try lobster. And (are you ready for this?) filet mignon, salmon cream cheese pinwheels, shrimp cocktail, beef bourguignon, roast turkey with chestnut dressing, veal chops, Dover sole, chicken teriyaki, eggs Florentine, Boston cream pie, fresh strawberry shortcake, and chocolate fudge sundaes. You were served a salad course and a soup course and sometimes even a cheese course -- minus that shrink-wrapped stick of pepper jack.

Is your mouth watering yet? You also had your choice of cocktails when you arrived and someone was constantly refilling your wine goblet with something a few hundred notches above Yellow Tail Shiraz.

Pan Am the TV show gets the food details pretty right, even if it does crowd the serving trays with a week's worth of delicacies. In one episode, an attendant played by Christina Ricci presents a passenger with a cart loaded with "prosciutto, pate, escargot ..." As real-life Pan Am attendant Karin Fiedler tells it in the Chicago Tribune, "Not only did I have to learn how to cook fresh roast beef five different ways, maybe right in the middle I may have to deliver a baby."

Even today's first-class meals (on most airlines) don't come close. The trade-off is that now middle-class slobs like me can afford to fly. Pan Am would have been way out of my price range.

But I wonder if I could get away with bringing aboard my own set of china and silverware, with maybe some carefully-packed coq au vin and haricot vert? Think anyone would mind if I passed around a platter of bacon-wrapped dates and prosciutto-wrapped melon, just for old time's sake?

Based on what you've seen in the TV show, would you have loved to fly Pan Am in the 1960s?

Image via PopCultureGeek/Flickr

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