Year for the Planet Week 28: Fantasy Eating in Airports

Before you can fix the world, you have to fix yourself. Year for a Planet is a personal challenge to be a better human for the planet for a whole year. This year, 2017, is where I deal with my food choices.

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Hello from my third of 6 airports I’ll be transiting to on the way to my art residency in the Amazon rainforest. I’m beyond excited but also tired of traveling, with a one-way trip being 51 hours long including an overnight stay in the Sao Paolo airport. Most of us who have to endure this end up sleeping in a transit hotel within the airport. Annoying as this may be, by this point I had been in the air for 23 hours. A hot bath and a supine sleeping position are some of the most delicious things afterwards.

There is so much food in an airport, but very few I feel good about eating. Why, in places where beautiful reunions and tearful separations occur on a daily basis, do we choose to fill ourselves with unhealthy, cruel, and overpriced food from the likes of McDonald’s and Pizza Hut?

I can’t eat much of anything here, though occasionally an overpriced sushi plate or salad feels like a compromise, and so in 51 hours I have gone through 25% of my stash of homemade protein bites. Variety is one thing I hadn’t planned for, and by now I am quite tired of peanut butter and oatmeal and ready for pao de queijos and Brazilian tapioca. But I don’t feel groggy or upset at feeling like I ate an overpriced meal with little nutritional value. Airports are hardly the places for culinary adventures anyway. I think eating homemade food is way better than seeing money go to waste, and despite my grumpiness at general airport inconsistencies, I don’t feel sluggish—just a need to floss because of all the chia seeds.

The more I travel, the easier it is for me to know what my body likes and does not. Bloating is one thing I hate after a trip, and now I’ve learned to forego all carbonated beverages. I’m terrified of dehydration, and would ask for my water bottle to be refilled every couple of hours either by the flight attendants on the plane or in drinking fountains when I land. If there is one thing that you readers pick up from this project—buy a reusable bottle and watch most of your plastic waste go down. (Buy a reusable spoon and fork or chopsticks while you’re at it, too!)

But in despair at the variety of food I neglected to pack, with many hours to kill before going to the Amazon, I ended up fantasizing about what I wish airport food would be. In the airport of my dreams, I would be snacking on these:

1. Pasta made from cricket flour, or spiralizer stations where we can make our own zucchini noodles, with sauces made from local vegetables, herbs, and spices
2. Smoothies that you can pay less for if you bring your own reusable container, with an information board on what can help with common traveler ailments, such as a cold, sore throat, grogginess, anxiety, boredom, etc. Plastic straws will of course banned.
3. Insect crackers such as grasshoppers and locusts
4. Cauliflower pizza with a smorgasbord of cheese to choose from
5. Salad made from the airport’s hydroponic garden (and maybe heated using energy generated from travelers and planes!)
6. Coffee made from the region and sold only in ceramic or stainless steel mugs that I can sip from and then return
7. Water filtered from rainwater caught and stored by the airport roof
8. Dishes with similar basic ingredients that have a lot of versatility, such as using chickpeas to make falafel, hummus, and vegan desserts. It will be easier and cost-effective to make them in the airport.

And while we’re at it, a reusable utensils kit that we can get at check-in, then return after our trip. Oh, and energy-harvesting paths where we can walk or run depending on how much carbon we spent on our trips so we can stretch our legs, burn the calories, and do our carbon offsets. Haha, I know, dream on.

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