Airline food has always been this strange thing for me.

As a kid, at one point my mom was trying to be healthier or something and ordered a vegetarian meal on a plane. This was at breakfast. It amazed me, this bowl of fruit she was given. It just looked so tasty. Since she was my mom, she shared, of course.

Since I’ve been doing this “requesting food on international flights” thing, I’ve seen a range in terms of how it works to have special dietary preferences or requirements. When I flew back from Korea, they made a mistake and didn’t actually set things up for my “special meal request,” as they like to call it. Instead, they offered me a side dish of kimchi, since that was all they had that was vegetarian.

It was a hungry flight.

On my trip to and from Wales, there was some wackiness in planning (as in there wasn’t any. However, on this flight (run by American Airlines) they said that their standard meal options were vegetarian and non-vegetarian. A special request, in this case, was not necessary or even possible. On my flight back, they ran out of vegetarian meals before they got to me, and instead compensated with extra generous portions of their salad, rolls, and crackers.

My most recent adventure, a trip to England, had a very real, simple, and strange experience in classism on the way out. The oven broke and we had no food while first class still had hot food. Part of the strangeness of this came from the stewardesses being snippy about it and American Airlines not offering us any compensation, which seems to be something airlines do when they inconvenience people.  For this flight, I had gone out of the way to triple check the vegan status of my ticket. I even called. I assume my meal was vegan or something, or would have been had I seen it. The margarine that came with it, however, contained whey. This was weird, because they went out of their way to offer a vegan meal request without it actually being so. As I realized this, I had these horrific images flash through my head of vegetarians with whey allergies going into anaphylactic shock on planes.

However, my meal was obviously supposed to be different from the standard. Other people got cookies, I got fruit. However, it’s worth noting that the bread and crackers they gave me were the same as they gave everyone else. For their “snack” they told me there were no special options—it was exactly the same as those next to me—but they kept the yogurt out of mine when I requested it.

On my flight back (still American—and I’m on it RIGHT NOW), I was hooked up with a special meal request. As opposed to the American flight out, the oven was working. This time, the guy sitting next to me also requested a vegetarian meal (not vegan). We got the same food. It also happened to be gluten free, low-sodium, wheat-free, and a few other things. In short: healthy. Everything special was in one go. It also wasn’t vegan! There were eggs and milk in the snack and whey in the margarine. But there was a rice cake. Man, I love rice cakes. Seriously craving some with nutritional yeast on them now.