Flying First Class, Pinching Menus, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Muse

Unpacking yet more of Bob’s boxes in the last few weeks, I’ve uncovered a trove of airline menus from past flights in 1st Class. Seeing these, I could say his muse was food. When these menus were new, we were airline employees, with pass riding and upgrades as part of our benefits. Before flights were packed as full as they are these days, we often got upgraded.

TWA First Class menus

When menus were shiny — I don’t remember the difference in Ambassador and Royal Ambassador. Apparently it had to do with silver and gold. Or maybe it was the upstairs/downstairs of the 747’s.

Before I had Bob to travel with, I seldom stopped to eat in nice restaurants, but instead found a cafeteria or a grocery store, or got a sandwich on the go. Seeing these menus reminded me of our first trips together and how amazed I was at the time he was willing to invest in deciding where to eat. Our first international trip together was to Greece, and I remember walking up and down and around all the streets near our Athens hotel that first evening, waiting (and starving) while he read the menus in the windows and deliberated, sometimes going back to look again and compare.

But back to menus in the air:

TWA 1st Class Menu - libations

The libations were shiny too.

And over the years the menus evolved:

Group of TWA 1st Class menus, probably through the 1980s.

A selection — I’m guessing through the 1980s.

Bob often traveled on business, so he collected menus from several other airlines too:

KLM First Class Menu

KLM Menus were a class act, and by the looks of it I’m guessing there were libations involved here as well.

Years later, in New York City for his cancer treatments, Bob lamented that there we were, in Manhattan, surrounded by wonderful restaurants, but chemo made him too nauseous to feel like eating. That soon changed though. After his surgery and through seven years of subsequent visits for check-ups and treatments, he got to enjoy those restaurants many times. I remember now that when I first started sorting through things after his death, I found stacks of menus then too — from his New York favorites.

But one more thing. I’m not so innocent myself. I found a menu that I saved. My friend Donna and I went to the Cafe Royale in London just to get this one. It had something to do with our favorite sci-fi novel of the moment, a Michael Moorcock time travel fantasy, where the raucous aliens partied in the bar of the Cafe Royale — picture the bar scene from Star Wars set in Victorian London.

Cafe Royal Bar

Cafe Royal Bar – you can tell from the prices that this was some time back.

 What to do with the menus? Maybe I’ll check out eBay. I did notice not long ago that someone Cafe Royal Menu Coverwas selling a TWA seat-occupied card. And yes, I have one of those too.

Have you ever collected menus?

For more on the Weekly Photo Challenge: Muse

18 thoughts on “Flying First Class, Pinching Menus, and the Weekly Photo Challenge: Muse

  1. Such an interesting thing to collect, menus. Airline menus, that’s a bit of a niche hobby and I suppose Bob got hundreds of them. I suppose you opened up many of them and had a read of what they served on planes back then 😉

    A sci-fi themed menu. I bet it’s a collectible now. I used to collect menus from cafes and restaurants around my neighbourhood. Whenever I felt like takeaway, I’d pick a few up and look at what they had and then take a short walk and go get it. Some of these places have now closed. Pity because they were quite good…and I’m pretty sure I threw out their menus while I was cleaning a while back. Sniff.

    • Well, not hundreds, but dozens. I did read some. It was interesting to see how the menu varied depending on the country and their specialties, and also to see the different languages. Takeaway menus sound like fun too — now I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Thanks for commenting Mabel, I’m glad to know you’re a menu-collector too! — Sandy

    • German roots. But he loved the restaurants in Italy. There were certain dishes he always looked for there, in particular a kind of soup he didn’t find anywhere else (it had egg in it, can’t remember what it was called) and I remember him studying all the menus looking for saltimbocca. I couldn’t eat it but he always made sure the menu had something for me too. His dad was the same way. I just went through a photo album of a trip they took to Italy before I knew them. What a great time they had. Thanks for commenting Sheila — I’ll bet you and your husband have some wonderful meals together!

  2. Ah, the good old days when flying was a luxury and wonderful experience. Just walk to the gate (all dressed up and wearing high heels), step onto a plane, stretch your legs and get set for adventure. I think even tourist class had printed menus (anyone else remember them?)

    • “Dress for Success” days were quite different from the current trend of wearing leotards as pants, weren’t they? Employees had dress codes for 1st class, and I couldn’t hobble around in them now but I do remember wearing heels, also suits, and even silk blouses. Now there’s not one suit in my closet, which is full of jeans and sweats. As for coach, there were relatively good meals up into the 90s, when I commuted back to KC on the weekends. Thanks for the reminder, Mickey.

      • Ha – I still can’t walk through 1st class without wishing I had a seat there, which I know comes from an admittedly illogical feeling of employee entitlement. And you’re right of course – the reason they had room for so many employees back then was that ordinary folk weren’t keen on paying for the seats, so they were usually only about 1/2 full. They did treat us rather poorly while at work, and flying 1st class made up for that (at least a little).

      • I wonder if it’s still worth it? 🙂 –Maybe on transatlantic. My last long trip in 1st was early 2009 when London was hit by a big snowstorm the day I was trying to leave. I had a buddy pass and was so happy to get an upgrade, especially on a day after my train to the airport got stuck for 5 hours in the storm (with no heat). That trip it was really worth it.

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