Would you like the Hobo’s Picnic Buffet sir?

While researching an article on the future of in-flight food in premium cabins, Business Traveller has stumbled across a digital archive set up by Northwestern University in the US, displaying images of in-flight menus from 1929 to the present day.

The Northwestern University Transportation Library Menu Collection contains over 400 in-flight menus from airlines including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, KLM, Pan Am, Qantas, TWA and United.

Among the more intriguing menus includes one available on a 1978 TWA flight between Washington DC and San Francisco, on which passengers could choose “The Hobo’s Picnic Buffet”, consisting of “Favorite traveling Vittles of such Legendary Hobo Heroes as Wall Street Willie and Boxcar Bernie… Corned Beef Sandwich, Chips, Fruit, Cheese and our Hobo’s Chocolate cigar. Presented in a Colorful Souvenir Bandanna.”

Meanwhile on a 1979 British Airways flight between Boston and London passengers could opt for the “Elizabethan Club Service”, featuring “Capon Puddynge after mistress Duffield’s Way. Prepared from capon chickens minced and blended with ground pork, butter, chopped figs, ginger and cinammon”. Travellers could also enjoy the “Dosset Sir Francis” digestif – “a hot beverage of milk flavoured with spices and fortified with liqueur”.

There are also several Pan Am menus archived from the 1960s, including a Thanksgiving Dinner featuring the traditional “Roast Tom Turkey, chestnut dressing, cranberry sauce, giblet gravy, candied yams and buttered garden peas, served with apple cider”. Menus from this era also offer “assorted brands of cigarettes” for purchase.

The menu collection is available to view here, and many of them feature covers with evocative photographs and drawings from various eras of overseas travel.

What’s the most memorable meal you’ve had in-flight? And what do you think the in-flight menu of the future should consist of? Tell us your thoughts by posting on our forum.

Thumbnail picture courtesy of Northwestern University’s Transportation Library Menu Collection

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  • I’ve enjoyed nice meals in the front cabin but usually find myself eating out of boredom on a long flight. I think airlines should serve an enhanced version of what Continental serves as a snack. Sliced meats,, shrimp, veggies, hard-cooked eggs, lots of lettuce, cheese cubes, fruit …. nearly anything that can be enjoyed cold or room temp …. lay it all out artistically on a big plate, serve dips and crackers and wine. Something chocolate for dessert. Nothing tastes particularly great 35,000 feet up, so make it fresh, simple and abundant, let it take a long time to consume.

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