(CNN) — Some of Nik Sennhauser’s earliest recollections are of long-haul flights — and of consuming on a airplane.
“The first time I got on a plane I was about five months old,” he says.
“I grew up between Austria and Thailand, so I’d be on a plane every two to three months or so.
“It was the one place the place, as a child, I might simply eat the entire meal with out query.
“At home, my mom would have to force me to eat stuff, but on a plane I’d just eat whatever I was given. I remember getting on the plane and looking forward to the food.”
With household everywhere in the world — his mother and father in Thailand, his sisters within the United States and Switzerland, and a brother in Spain — flying has at all times meant “home” to him.
“I used to spend all my free time on Google Flights, punching in dates, destinations and budgets; looking at videos of flight reports on YouTube; making my own videos as well — my whole life revolved around flying,” he says.
Until the pandemic hit.
Nik Sennhauser (left) has been obsessive about airplanes since childhood — seen right here at Phuket airport in 1988.
Sennhauser — who lives in Glasgow, Scotland, and used to fly each three weeks or so — hasn’t been on a airplane since coming back from Japan in February 2020. (Sadly it was an evening flight, so his final airplane meal was a wrap and a few breakfast.)
And though he is stopped all his different former hobbies — he finds it too troublesome to consider how issues had been, and of how they’re now — he has discovered a brand new one.
Every weekend, he scrolls by means of his images of previous flights, picks a meal he loved onboard, and recreates it from scratch.
So far, he is made all the things from tamagoyaki (a Japanese omelet) to Austrian spaetzle and Thai curries, recreating dishes from the likes of Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Austrian and ANA.
But this is not only a query of discovering and following a recipe on-line. Sennhauser additionally plates the dishes on real airline crockery, and presents it as a correct airplane meal.
A brand new lockdown expertise
It’s a time-consuming mission. Sennhauser has by no means been into cooking, he says — for starters, he would not have had time earlier than the pandemic.
And initially of lockdown, when folks had been posting footage and movies of themselves having fun with faux airplane journeys, regardless of being a prolific poster of life on board, and selfies taken in airplane bogs, he did not participate.
But then, he says, on week three of lockdown, “I was really bored and just did it,” making an airline-style meal, and posting a photograph.
He rapidly discovered a neighborhood of individuals doing the identical factor — blogs asking readers to recreate their airplane expertise, and folks posting images of themselves consuming off plastic trays.
“I thought, ‘Oh, lots of people are doing it. It’s not exciting anymore’,” he says. So he stopped it.
He spent the remainder of Scotland’s back-to-back lockdowns ignoring the aviation world. But sooner or later in January 2021, because of a mixture of “boredom, being stuck at home, and really missing traveling,” he determined to have one other go.
He already owned a real airline trolley, purchased on eBay together with airline crockery and cutlery: melamine plates, champagne flutes, retro financial system glasses, and china plates and low cups from varied enterprise courses. Most of it’s purchased on-line — there is a main marketplace for it in Germany, he says — though he admits that, “In turbulence, the odd spoon here and there has slipped off the tray and fallen into my pocket.”
So on this chilly lockdown day in January, he opened up his trolley and received his plates out. “And I started plating again, just for fun.”
He began with a random airline-style breakfast: sausages with scrambled eggs, spinach, plus a pot of ham, cheese and gherkins.
Two months on, Sennhauser has a brand new passion. He goes by means of his movies of previous flights to have a look at what he ate onboard, and recreates total meals from begin to end. He’ll spend the weekend engaged on Sunday dinner, in addition to throwing a breakfast or brunch into the combo on Saturday or Sunday morning.
His meals are recreated from scratch, together with appetizers and sides.
“The amazing thing about it is that I’ve actually become a better cook, because I had to go and research the recipes,” he says, gleefully.
“The meals aren’t just for Instagram to look nice; they have to taste good, as well, because they’re actually our Sunday meals, and I have to feed my husband. So it needs to be edible.
“So I really needed to go and seek the advice of cookbooks and the web for all these recipes, and I’ve discovered to prepare dinner all these various things. And I’ve realized I’m fairly good at making desserts. I’ve made a bunch of mousses — chocolate mousse, white chocolate mousse, darkish chocolate mousse — and so they style a lot better than what you may get within the retailers. So it has been a little bit of a journey for me.”
Cooking the meals, he says, “helps me cope with my wanderlust”, and allows him to relive memories of great trips past.
His breakfasts and brunches are his own invention — mainly omelets and sausages, as you’d find on a plane.
But the dinners are full meals that he’s been served onboard in the past — not just the main course, but also the appetizers, sides and desserts.
The schnitzel that made a friendship
Although he’s traveled a lot in business class, thanks to a canny use of airline points, Sennhauser isn’t above recreating meals he’s had in economy.
One of his favorite recent meals is a recreation of an Austrian Airlines meal — travelers in economy can preorder a tray made by caterers Do&Co, featuring signature dishes including a wiener schnitzel.
“Having grown up in Austria, wiener schnitzel is certainly one of my favourite dishes of all time, so I recreated that, together with a potato salad, cucumber salad and chocolate mousse,” he says.
His fellow avgeeks are enthusiastic.
“They at all times say that mine appears higher than the actual deal,” he says. “But then, you realize, I get to spend an entire day cooking this, plating it in my kitchen, whereas on a airplane, within the galley, there’s solely a lot they’ll do, particularly in financial system class.”
But in the case of the Austrian Airlines schnitzel, Sennhauser realized that one crucial thing was missing: the signature triangular Austrian Airlines plate.
It meant that the next time Sennhauser came to make the meal, he could serve it as the real deal.
“It exhibits how social media works,” says Sennhauser, who says that those triangular plates are now his favorite airline crockery.
“It brings individuals who have the identical pursuits collectively and permits you to do stuff like this, the place anyone in Vienna picks up a few plates, places them in a field, sends them off and so they arrive in Glasgow, the place anyone else can prepare dinner and plate meals from that flight, after which take an image and put it up on social media.”
It’s this sense of community that he’s been missing during lockdown — and he says that making the meals “provides me a objective.”
“The meals has helped me to consider journey and the nice occasions I’ve had with out getting upset — there is a objective now to go surfing, watch my outdated movies and take a look at the outdated footage. And it provides me pleasure throughout this time after I cannot journey. It’s helped me cope with it.”
Reliving a honeymoon flight
Some of the meals have reminded him of major life events. To celebrate five years since their honeymoon, last month Sennhauser recreated a meal from his honeymoon flight to New York.
He and husband Graham had flown on SWISS — “in enterprise class as a result of it was our honeymoon” — and were served spaetzle with beef stroganoff and a side salad, plus chocolate mousse with a raspberry coulis.
As he does with all his meals, Sennhauser created it all — right down to the spaetzle — from scratch, taking half a day to make it. “It was a pleasant strategy to rejoice our honeymoon anniversary,” he says.
The magic of airplane food
Of course, few people are as fond of plane food as this — in fact, for most travelers, it’s a running joke. But Sennhauser thinks that’s because most of us aren’t giving it a fair go.
“I feel individuals who hate it most likely have unrealistic expectations,” he says.
“You should consider that you just’re in a steel tube at 40,000 ft being catapulted by means of the air, and the flight attendant is heating up a meal in an oven — there’s solely a lot they’ll do. Also, I feel folks do not wish to be given simply two choices.
“People compare it to what they can get in a restaurant, but it’s a completely different species, plane food. There’s only so much you can do, and I think people are unrealistic of the circumstances.
“I’m not saying it is higher than what you may get on the bottom, in any respect — however if you happen to consider the quantity of labor and energy that goes into, it from the one who designs it to the to the staff that assessments it, the cooks who prepare dinner it, the individuals who package deal it, wrap it up, put it within the trolley and onto the airplane, the flight attendants who then take it out, put it within the oven and serve it with a smile.
“It’s a different beast to what you get in a restaurant, and I take that into account. I mean, most of the time it’s not as good as a restaurant, but you’re in a plane! And that’s what makes it magical.”
That stated, not all his experiences have been good. He picks out an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin to Chicago in 2012 as a low level — “it was just pasta with beef and tomato sauce that wasn’t very good at all — and all I remember about the rest of the flight is that I was very uncomfortable having eaten that meal” — however provides that “it’s probably not fair on them anymore because the airline was going through a rough time.”
And earlier than you assume he is a airplane meals snob, he additionally mentions easyJet’s earlier catering as certainly one of his favorites.
“I really liked a croque monsieur that they had, but then they changed the suppliers, I think. And yeah, it wasn’t good enough. But the original was ridiculous — it was fun to be able to look forward to flying easyJet.”
His normal airplane meals tip is to plump for the Asian choice, if there may be one.
“Asian food works really well on a plane because it’s flavorsome by default. One of my favorite meals in economy is Thai Airways, because there’s always a curry. The best meal I had was on Singapore Airlines, and I had Singaporean chicken curry for breakfast.
“It got here in a large bowl with rice and candy bread rolls, and I couldn’t cease consuming. I actually wished I hadn’t stuffed my face beforehand within the lounge.”
And although he says a general rule of thumb is to never pick steak, a signature steak dish on SWISS business class he once had, was “not solely top-of-the-line meals I’ve had on a airplane, it was most likely the perfect steak I’ve had in my life — tender, juicy and nonetheless uncommon inside, not rubbery and grey because it normally is on a airplane.”
How to DIY airline meals
Sadly, Sennhauser doesn’t see post-pandemic plane food being quite as special.
“So a lot has modified over the previous 12 months with meals on planes clearly, due to restrictions and precautions. The pre-order meals, which had been at all times nice enjoyable to make the most of, lots of them have disappeared as a result of not as many individuals are touring and airways have to chop prices.
“Austrian Airlines and Swiss have now cut their economy class meals on shorter flights and often scratch their pre-order meal service. So all the meals that I would always look forward to are actually not available anymore, which is very, very sad, but it’s understandable.”
He does not have any flights booked proper now, though he is determined to go to his mother and father in Thailand, who he hasn’t seen since 2019. But that journey apart, he says his excellent post-pandemic airplane meals journey could be to Tokyo on ANA in enterprise class.
“I’ve seen pictures of their food in business and first class, and it’s just out of this world — we’ve flown twice with them in economy and the food was amazing.”
Feeling impressed? Sennhauser suggests beginning with financial system class meals, and making an attempt a Thai curry.
“All you have to do is cook some rice and make a curry with curry paste, coconut milk and some meat. And you need a nice little dish to put it in, and there you go. The only issue is plating — I use a small spoon and do it very carefully, bit by bit. Don’t rush it — think it out beforehand, maybe even draw a little picture of how you want it to look.
“It takes me three to 4 hours making these meals, however with the restrictions there’s nowhere else to go so I’d as effectively spend 4 hours within the kitchen and put out a banging meal.”