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US airline Pan Am was hailed as the “glitz and glamour” of the airline industry during its operational years. Part of this allure was the service on board, with meals said to rival “the fanciest French restaurant”.
Cabin crew were not only trained in the appropriate way to serve meals, they also had to cook much of the food fresh onboard.
However, things did not always run so smoothly when trying to whip up a meal 30,000 feet in the air.
As part of the preparation for his new book Food and Aviation in the Twentieth Century: The Pan American Ideal, Dr Bryce Evans, associate professor in History at Liverpool Hope University spoke with a number of former flight attendants.
One of them recounted a particularly stressful incident in the galley which left her somewhat red-cheeked.
Helen Davey, a flight attendant between 1965 and 1986, revealed how cooking hundreds of eggs to order proved tricky during flights hit by turbulence.
Speaking to Dr Evans, she said: “Bouncing up and down, I was determined to cook those stupid eggs perfectly, against all odds.
“Somehow, my fellow flight attendants and I got into a ‘zone’ and we managed, row after row, to deliver beautiful, fluffy scrambled eggs and sausages.
“Each dish was topped off by one bright green sprig of parsley, otherwise known as ‘Pan Am roses,’ because no meal was considered complete without it.
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“My fellow flight attendants and I felt extremely gratified when several passengers made a special trip back to the galley to tell us that it was the most delicious meal they had ever had on an aeroplane!”
However, some mild embarrassment was to come when she stepped off the aircraft.
“I must have been one sorry sight when I got off the aeroplane on that beautiful, bright and hot summer morning,” Ms Davey continued.
“I couldn’t cover myself up with my overcoat because it was too hot.
“Eggs encrusted my hair, my uniform, my shoes, and my purse.”
She added: “When I arrived at my hotel room and undressed, I had scrambled eggs in my bra!”
Despite this, the former cabin crew member says it will all worth it.
“The feeling of satisfaction, however, is something I’ve never forgotten.
“My crew and I had found a way to bring order from chaos, and those eggs had not defeated me.”
Dr Evans states that Pan Am’s strict food rules and regulations allowed the airline to lead the way, and was actually something favoured by its staff.
“At Pan Am there were lengthy memos about how to correctly serve bread rolls with a fork and tongue,” he said.
“It was also illustrative of the type of passenger they used to carry.
“And the stewards were all glad that they received such a high degree of training – including in the provenance of different wines, how the wines complemented certain dishes, and the regions of the world they came from.
“It pre-echoed the world today when people are obsessed with the authentic and the local. Pan Am was doing this year’s before it became so trendy.”
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