Home > Food, Travel, Wine > And so the big American adventure begins….

And so the big American adventure begins….

Flight Emirates EK771m, Cape Town to Dubai: 23h40 CAT somewhere over Africa

The 10 hour flight path from Cape Town to Dubai on Emirates

I’ve finally figured out that I hate long distance travel. Don’t get me wrong, I love visiting new and interesting places, but I hate getting there and back. Take this current odyssey to  Los Angeles which is depressingly far away; 26 hours of flying time, and three hours of layover.

The journey commenced a few hours ago when Emirates flight EK771 from Cape Town lifted off the runway (almost on time I might add, only 12 minutes late!) at 18.22 and headed north-north-east for Dubai in the UAE. The pre-flight cabin routine went of with the usual degree of enthusiasm from the cabin staff, and the usual degree of attention from passengers, which is to say pretty much nothing from either. We’d all done or heard it before, depending upon which side of the blow-up life jacket your were sitting or standing on.

The plane was chock-a-block, full to the ceiling, and much as I had a seat at the emergency exit, I had leg room but little elbow room, at least on the one side. I’d cleverly (I thought) asked for an aisle seat, because that way I wouldn’t have to wake up a grumpy fellow traveller to get to the toilet during the flight.  Of course, sitting at the emergency exit means you can simply get up and walk around your neighbour’s feet, so I could have taken the window seat which gives you something to lean your weary head on once exhaustion overtakes the discomfort inherent in long distance flying in cattle truck class!

To be sure, the air ticket for the journey was remarkably inexpensive – R10 346.00 including all taxes for a flight from Cape Town to Salt Lake City return, including a stopover for a week in California. (My travel agent is Elize Pelser, and her contact details are as follows, if you’re interested in excellent service, competitive fares and not unduly lengthy routings: Elco Travel, (012)345 4007.)

Back to my dislike of long haul flying: part of the problem in cattle truck class is the uniformly abysmal food. Okay you might say, don’t eat it then, but I find that difficult. It’s almost as if when I board an airplane, I lose my sense of self-discipline, and simply eat whatever is set before me, no matter how awful it is. I think it’s got something to do with boredom. Or zombie-itis, or maybe stupidity…

We’ve just had dinner, which was preceded by the handing out of a beautifully printed menu, and one of those hot little facecloths on which you wipe your hands.  The menu pompously declaims thus: ” Emirates invites you to enjoy its award-winning cuisine, complemented by the finest beverages from a selection of Wines, Spirits, Beers, Liqueurs and Soft Drinks.” The italics are theirs, not mine, perhaps to lend some or other allure to what they have on offer which, without putting too fine a point on it, doesn’t amount to very much.

The Emirates Cape Town - Dubai flight menu.

Granted, the menu, featured right, does seem impressive, sonorously announcing an appetiser of tuna with pasta salad, a choice of herb marinated chicken breast, beef Stroganoff or potato gnocchi for the main course,  praline and mango mousse desert, cheese and biscuits, tea or coffee and chocolates.

Not too bad you might surmise, but beware, its a trap. No matter how tempting the food sounds when you read the menu, they’re doing a sandbag job on you. Think about it: how is it possible for a meal prepared hours before the flight leaves, then either kept hot for hours, or reheated before being served, taste like anything other than damp cardboard? Sure it looks different: you can actually discern the various components of the dish, like beef strips, fettuccini, green beans and roasted pumpkin, but ALL of it tastes exactyl the same: like warmed over damp cardboard.

I’d love to know, in which cook-off the Emirates cuisine won an award, because the competition couldn’t have been terribly tough. Or perhaps it won an award for Worst Airline Meal Ever. Anyway, my sympathies lie with all the poor unsuspecting sods who will fly this route after me, until the menu changes. Ominously, the routing “Cape Town – Dubai” at the foot of the menu has no expiry date. I wonder if I’ll get the same meals on the return journey? Now there’s a depressing thought.

The one shining light on the horizon, was the red wine I chose from the drinks cart: 2010 Litorre Family Wines Sirah from the Barossa Valley in Aus. Inky purple, ripe plums and mulberry on the nose. Translates into a palate frenzy: voluptuous, opulent and really lovely fruit, soft tannins. Now the bottle is peculiar; 187ml in size. Never seen such a bottle before. Why not 200ml I wonder? Dinner having come and gone I guess a movie is in order, before I try to get some sleep.

Flight Emirates EK771m, Cape Town to Dubai: 04h30 GST somewhere over Saudi Arabia

They woke us up for another meal (breakfast) about an hour ago, and I guess to get ready for the landing in Dubai, UAE. We’re about an hour out. The meal was depressingly pedestrian, but considering that it has been in a hot box for about 10 hours before being warmed over and served, what ought one to expect?

Sleeping on an aircraft has always worried me. I have this overriding belief that I snore ferociously, with my mouth open, and drool intermittently. I say this because when I do manage to drift into a slumber deeper than my default semi-conciousness, fellow passengers tend to look at me with a mixture of amazement, disdain and amusement, when I re-surface. This last sleep, melatonin-induced (aided by two of those 187ml bottles of Aussie Sirah), was no exception, save for me having to untangle myself from my next door neighbour.

He’s one of those travellers who has no sense of travel-sleeping decorum. You know what I mean, the ability and intention of containing oneself as far as possible within the confines of ones own seat. As I clawed my way out of the black pit of slumber, I became blearily aware that there was a head resting on my right shoulder, an arm across my waist, with a hand perilously close to my crotch, and a leg over both of mine. In an attempt to avoid any mutual embarrassment, I endeavoured to untangle myself as carefully and gently as possible. I did not succeed.

The pilot has just announced our imminent landing at Dubai International, and the cabin staff are cleaning the cabin. I can’t figure out who looks worse: them or us. Shit, it’s been a long flight, and depressingly, I have another flight of 16 odd hours before I reach Los Angeles.

  1. Felicity Allwright
    November 28, 2011 at 7:39 am

    Dear Norman

    I see you are travelling to Los Angeles, I hope you enjoy the destination, if not the trip! I have flown twice from Cape Town, via Amsterdam to Vancouver and to Calgary, both very long flights, also twice from Cape Town, via Kuala Lumpa to Brisbane and Dubai to Brisbane, also horrible flights.

    I thought I would make your Pumpkin Pie recipe, but before I got that far, I have a query about your recipe. I thought that 500 ml of cream seemed rather a lot for the filling, but when I read further through the recipe near the end, you mention that I had to “serve the balance of the cream whipped into soft peaks”! Nowhere do you mention how much of the cream goes into the filling and how much you whip to plonk on top? Because of this, I still have not made the pie and my bottles of ingredients are still awaiting my effort standing on my kitchen counter, as I did not want to mess up my pie by putting too much cream into the filling. I have unfortunately never been in the USA or Canada for Thanksgiving yet and only found out while I was there that Thanksgiving in the USA is on the 24th November and in Canada on the second Tuesday of October. I was also very surprised to hear the latest fashion is to deep fry the turkey in oil for which you must need a huge pot and a hell of a lot of oil! Hopefully I will receive a reply from you as to what I must do with the cream. I forgot to buy it, so if I have to wait for a reply until you get back to SA, it will not have gone off as I will only buy it when I get a reply. I have looked on the web and seen many variations of this recipe but your recipe seems to be good when I have the correct amount of cream and it does not matter that I did not make it for USA Thanksgiving.

    Enjoy the USA.

    Best wishes

    Felicity Allwright

    • November 28, 2011 at 8:24 am

      Hi Felicity,
      I’ve been here a month already, but have only now started posting on my blog about the trip. Lot’s more to come in the next couple of weeks about my adventures. The cream quantity is 375ml in the pie mixture, and the remaining 125ml whipped as a topping.
      I leave to return home on Saturday, but by the time I do, I hope to have written a good deal more about what I’ve seen and done.
      PS. Enjoy the pie, it’s really good!

  2. Eppie McFarlane
    November 28, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Norm
    What a funny start to your trip, and by that I mean hilarious! Thanks for making me giggle during my lesson critting! By the way, when I made the pumpkin pie, I just used one punnet of cream and it worked out fine. No wonder there was so much to beat up for the garnish! I’ve already fielded a call about the large amount of cream and my moerby advice was to use one for the filling and one for the topping!
    Can’t wait, for the next installment AND for your return!!!
    Mwah! – E

  3. November 28, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Good laugh, especially the sleeping part. Bill Bryson wrote in his book about Australia (Down Under) that when he sleeps on planes or in cars, he drools to the point that when he wakes up it appears as if a giant fly had landed and taken a crap on him.

  4. Felicity Allwright
    November 28, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    That sounds good. Come back safely and I will await all the news of the trip.



    PS: Thanks for the quantities of cream included.

  5. January 24, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    I suspect your small bottle on the plane was actually 187.5ml,(known as a ‘split’) which is exactly one quarter of a bottle. It is a standard size served on airlines and is, I suspect, one of the sizes approved for the EU.

    Two of those small bottles equals a half-bottle (375ml) and four equals a bottle (750ml)

    • January 24, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      Thanks Peter, for this fascinating piece of trivia. The 187ml has been gnawing at my curiosity, I must say.

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