Last updated: 11:00 AM ET, Tue November 29 2016

Devour This Timeline Of Airline Food Technology

Airlines & Airports Gabe Zaldivar November 29, 2016

Devour This Timeline Of Airline Food Technology

PHOTO: The in-flight meal is very different from what it once was. (Photo courtesy Flickr/LWYang)

It wasn’t enough for humans to conquer the sky and enjoy the luxury of soaring in the clouds. They also had to infuse the experience with food.

There is no more pressing need and amazing luxury afforded our species than eating. It can be as simple as snacking on some crackers between meals or as intricate as devouring a five-course meal while on vacation. With that in mind, Wired’s Jennifer Chaussee takes us on a brief stroll through time to explore all the ways we have managed to sate our hunger while meandering about the sky.

Wired selects various entries through Richard Foss’ “Food in the Air and Space: The Surprising History of Food and Drink in the Skies” to illustrate just how far we have come in the realm of in-flight food.

You would think the culinary experience would have started out meagerly, but Foss explains that things were chemically charged way back in the 19th century.

Chausse’s timeline taken from Foss’ elaborate work starts back in 1836, which is hardly the era you would think people would enjoy flight as well as that rare delicacy that is eating while flying, but thanks to hot-air balloons and quicklime, patrons 180 years ago had hot food to go along with their hot-air conveyance.

According to Wired, purveyors would be able to serve hot food such as steak without the headache that is an open flame aboard a floating balloon.

We were ready to proclaim this the work of dark magic, but YouTube highlights modern applications of quicklime and water:

Now extrapolate that rather mundane egg fry into another atmosphere, to when travelers enjoyed a hot meal without so mush as a spark.

Chaussee walks us through the passage of time, marking various chapters important to the culinary experience up in the air.

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For example, prior to the 1940s, in-flight meals mostly consisted of cold fried chicken. Now relegated to your average picnic fare, cold chicken became obsolete on airplanes thanks to actual kitchen galleys being introduced back in 1937.

The advent of hot food became far more universal once officials discovered how to shave ample time off the cook.

In 1958, Pan-Am blew the socks off in-flight diners with its five-minute oven. Seeing as how we can now have a Hot Pocket in the matter of a minute or so, we want to now rethink the actual value of traveling back in time.

The timeline also features entries for the 1960s and its introduction of the ever-present food cart and sous vide becoming widely used starting back in 2009.

What really has us intrigued, however, is what Wired has to say about the future: “In the not-so-far-off future, you may be able to fetch your food on demand from robots or conveyor belts that pop out from the floor to serve you.”

One thing left out of the mix was the recent surge by airlines to infuse their respective experiences with better tasting and eclectic food.

As TravelPulse’s Josh Lew found in May, many brands are going above and beyond as pertains to their food offerings, attempting to shed the stigma that is the airline meal.

Snack boxes are becoming far more varied and actual meals are moving towards extravagance.

Surely, the best bet may be to bring a meal onboard to ensure some level of consistency. But, according to Foss’ book, you would be missing out on an always-evolving machine that continues to pump out food to millions of travelers around the world.

While we all feel the pangs of hunger, how airlines have solved the conundrum has varied widely over the decades.