A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from March 04, 2009
Airline Food (Airplane Food)

Airline food (also called “airplane food” or “airline meal” or “in-flight meal”) was essentially started by United Airlines in late 1936-early 1937, when food consultant Donald F. Magarrell established the airline industry’s first flight kitchen in Oakland (CA). Simple meals—such as a ham sandwich, an apple and a banana—were being served by at least 1935.
“Airplane food” is cited in print from September 1936, “aerial meals” is cited from March 1937, and “airline food” is cited from September 1937.
Wikipedia: Airline meal
An airline meal or In-flight meal is a meal served to passengers onboard a commercial airliner. These meals are prepared by airline catering services.
The first kitchens for serving meals in flight were established by United Airlines in 1936.
These meals vary widely in quality and quantity across different airline companies and classes of travel. They range from a simple beverage in short-haul economy class to a seven-course gourmet meal in long-haul first class.
United Airlines - Timeline
December 1936
United opens the industry’s first flight kitchen at Oakland, Calif.
United history
Anticipating food service problems with the Douglas DC-3 transport, United in 1936 hired Cornell University food consultant Don Magarrell to establish the airline industry’s first flight kitchen in Oakland, Calif.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
airline food n. food served on a commercial passenger flight.
1937 Albuquerque (New Mexico) Jrnl. 26 Sept. (Mag. section) 1/2, I take a sample tray properly served and tell the manager the story of *airline food.
2002 Observer Food Monthly Nov. 31/1 The gravy was Oxo-ish. It tasted like airline food.
(Oxford English Dictionary)
airplane food n. N. Amer. = airline food n. at AIRLINE n. Compounds 2.
1952 Albuquerque (New Mexico) Jrnl. 13 Sept. 2/3 That’s the secret of this *airplane food business, timing.
2006 National Post (Toronto) (Nexis) 27 Oct. PM12, I hate airplane food, so I figured I’d try a specialty meal.
6 January 1935, Charleston (WV) Gazette, pg. 7, col. 4:
An innovation which will add much to the daintiness of American Airline meals is a novelty napkin designed especially for the company.
(NewspaperArchive page not currently available—ed.)
Daily News Standard
Airplane food is the latest coupled with air ping for- toothsome viands United Air Lines air express manifests re- veal During the cargo pits of the passenger have carried items as from New-York and Bobby Davis has re- after being here for a short visit with friends He formerly lived here U head than bers in 11 of- the Women’s Auxiliary veterans Mrs H Thompson above Beaver elected president at congress in Poland of a War hero she lead peace efforts of By Progressives I SEE YOU PAINTE
Tuesday, September 08, 1936 Uniontown, Pennsylvania
(NewspaperArchive page not currently available—ed.)
Olean Times Herald
Airplane food is the latest coupled with air shopping for viands United Air Lines air express manifests re- veal During recent weeks the of the passenger transports have ried such items as blue fish from New York and silver salmon from Puget Sound waters at Seattle On the same plane maybe there were flowers being flown over- night from California to New York or a shipment of more than 100 pounds of sweet peas from rado for Gotham’s markets swing Into the shape of a huge star When th
Saturday, September 12, 1936 Olean, New York
5 March 1937, Oakland (CA) Tribune, pg. 34:
Col. 2 photo:
Chef Gino Martini (left) and John Brook, head baker, are shown preparing some of the delicious meals United Air Lines is now featuring on its planes. The company has started its own commissary department at the Oakland Airport and will shortly inaugurate the same service in other sections of the country. 
Co. 5:
United Engages Expert to
SUpervise Unique Cuisine
Service on Big Planes

A flying host, serving the longest meals in the world—just a mere 200 miles between soup and nuts—that’s the job of Donald F. Magarrell, oustanding economist and food expert. in short the gentleman is the nation’s first maitre d’airline—for he presides over the food division of the United Air Lines.
Some three months ago the United decided they wanted to have actual control of the kind of meals served passengers aloft. Knowing the tremendous advantages and conveniences of the new Douglas planes they figured there was no good reason why piping hot meals could not be offered and service given comparable to a fine club lounge. And so this progressive concern set about to do a job.
First in their planning came the setting up of the commissary at the Oakland Airport—the only one of its kind at present, but forerunner of nine others to be situated at strategic points throughout the country. A well known chef, with an equally well known pastry chef selected a group of assistants and under Maitre Magarrell’s direction started giving the passengers something besides a picnic lunch.
Variety, as well as tasty and eye-appealing foods will be the aim and from now on passengers will never know until the menu is presented what the selection will be. This will be a boon to the folks who fly frequently.
Dainty linens, attractive china, a glassware of special make, and gleaming silver will make the estimated 415,000 meals served aloft by United Air Lines a true epicurian delight—a finished service for perfect foods.
Would you feel that you had luncheoned well if you were served a
Crabmeat Cocktail
Half Avocado and Grapefruit Salad
Relish Buttered Bun
Cheese on Rye Bread
Ham and Turkey on White Bread
Royal Hawaiian Pudding
Cake, Cookies, Nuts
Coffee, Tea or Chocolate.
That’s what the noontime passengers had yesterday. Or how about this dinner:
Shrimp Cocktail
Lettuce, Tomato and Egg Salad
Fried Chicken
Buttered Buns
Almond Blanc Mange
Cake and Cookies—Mints
Coffee, Tea or Chocolate.
26 September 1937, Albuquerque (NM) Journal, magazine section, pg. 1, col. 1:
“Eats”—in the Air
Pioneer Maitresse de Cuisine of Sky Travel Tells of Progress in Catering Above the Clouds

By Edna B. Eastburn
Two years ago, when I made my first inspection tour as director of the food service on this airline, a baker’s cake box with some sandwiches, fruit and cake was all we had to offer.
(...)(Col. 2—ed.)
I take a sample tray properly served and tell the manager the story of airline food.
26 April 1939, New York (NY) Times, pg. 48:
Overcoming of Obstacles at High
Altitudes Is Related

At 5,000 feet in the air it takes six minutes to boil a three-minute egg. Hot coffee packed in a thermos bottle for an airplance lunch is wont to expand rapidly and blow off the cork. Milk had better be drunk quickly because it curdles almost instantaneously. Freshly baked rolls will be dry as a bone within a matter of minutes, and dire things happen to inferior fruits and vegetables in the high altitudes of airplane travel.
These and other natural obstacles the commissary department had to face in providing the 500,000 meals served last year to passengers on United Air Lines planes were explained yesterday to guests at a luncheon at the St. Regis Hotel, at which a typical airplanme meal was served. D. F. Magarrell, director of passenger service, told the story of the expansion of the first restaurant service on airliners to the present, when six-company owned commissaries are operating and two more will be opened by December.
From the days when an airplance “meal” consisted of a ham sandwich, an apple and a banana, the serving of free meals has progressed to the point where a complete a la carte service is available and individual orders can be filled if the roast beef rare or minute state medium is ordered when the seat reservation is made, Mr Magarrell emphasized.
8 May 1940, Capital Times (Madison, WI), pg. 10, col. 3:
Why it takes six minutes to boil a three-minute egg when you’re 10,000 feet in the air and other problems of cookery in the clouds will be discussed when Fred Allen interviews Donald F. Magarrell of United Air Lines, during his program over WMAQ at 7 tonight.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Wednesday, March 04, 2009 • Permalink

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