It’s Time To Cook A Four Course Polaris Meal, And I Hate All Of You

Filed Under: United

I don’t actually hate you guys, but… 😉

In December I wrote about how United Airlines did the unthinkable — no, not drag a man off a plane, or cut employee bonuses and call it an exciting improvement.

Rather they released a cookbook. I appreciate innovation, like when companies come up with new products that meet needs that weren’t previously addressed. Maybe it’s just me, but an airline cookbook doesn’t seem to fit into that category.

Nonetheless I couldn’t help myself. I ordered the cookbook, and of course a stylish United apron to go along with it, so I too can live out my United-flight-attendant-with-40-years-of-seniority fantasy.

There’s an added wrinkle here. I’ve never cooked before. Not once. I mean, I’ve once in a while put popcorn in the microwave, and a couple of times I’ve even boiled water to make tea.

But other than that I rely on reservations or Postmates to have a good meal. So I figured that if I’m going to learn to cook, a United Airlines cookbook is the place to start, since they don’t really know how to cook either. I figured it was a toss up between United, Chef Boyardee, or Olive Garden (apparently they have a Tuscan cooking school, though I suspect that’s code for “Tuscan microwave course”).

I’m visiting Tiffany this week, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to tackle this task. Tiffany suggested we have readers vote on what they want to see cooked. I agreed.

So, what are we cooking?

When Tiffany said we’d prepare a “whole meal,” I didn’t realize she was referring to a multi-course meal. I thought she meant, like, an entree. But now apparently we’re preparing a four course meal… FML.

So, what did you guys vote on?

  • Crispy Octopus, Avocado, Pickled Pearl Onions, Cilantro, Chicharron spices
  • Confit Chicken Salad with Roasted Butternut Squash, Pickled Beets, and Goat Cheese
  • Five-Spice Braised Short Ribs with Fried Black Rice
  • Black Sticky Rice with Fresh Mango and Sweet Coconut Cream

SERIOUSLY, guys? Seriously?!?

I’ve never cooked before, and I’m supposed to make crispy octopus, confit chicken, braised short ribs, and black sticky rice?

As if that’s not challenging enough, let me also add that I was a vegetarian for eight years, and I’m actually disgusted at the thought of handling raw meat and anything that’s bloody or looks like an animal. So the prospect of preparing octopus, chicken, and short ribs, is quite horrifying.

We went shopping!

Today Tiffany and I went shopping for our little adventure, which included going to four different stores. Yes folks, we’re actually taking this seriously.

Since we want to emulate United, we were on a quest to find only the freshest, seasonal, artisanal, bespoke, locally-sourced, and organic ingredients, so that we can replicate the farm-to-table experience that United offers.

That started with going to Spokane’s one Asian supermarket, appropriately called “Best Asian Market.”

You know it’s authentic when it has a rickshaw above the door!

I’m taking the shopping experience really seriously, as you can see…

The market had a lot of things…

Though the octopus OMFG this isn’t going to end well OMFG…

And I love the fins just sticking through the fish packaging.

And the random air hockey table in the store…

That was only our first stop, though after three more stops, below is what the kitchen counter looked like.

Completely unrelated, but the best part of going to the “Best Asian Market” were these treats that I picked up. YASSSS!

So now we start the process of cooking…

Now the cooking begins!

I figured the entire meal might take a couple of hours to prepare. We’re having a big dinner party tomorrow for our valued self loading freight guests, so we need to prepare the entire meal tonight.

No, not because anything needs to marinade overnight, but rather because we’re trying to be as true to United Polaris as possible. All the food needs to be prepared tonight, then refrigerated, and then microwaved tomorrow, prior to being carelessly plated and then served.

But in true airline fashion, we’ll be focusing on some of the other details as well:

  • We need to make sure we have credit card applications at everyone’s seat, with an exclusive, special offer that’s only available at this particular dinner
  • We need to make sure we don’t have quite enough food for everyone to eat what they want
  • We have to make sure we don’t actually remember what we prepared — we’re serving octopus, chicken, beef, and rice, and if anyone has any questions about the details, I’m going to roll my eyes
  • I need to get some sort of a badge so that everyone respects my authority in the kitchen and at the table; after all, I’m there primarily for their safety
  • I need to invite someone over with a spreadsheet, so s/he can tell us how we could improve our bottom line by “enhancing” our meal
  • While dinner is complimentary for our valued guests, we’re going to require a $60 surcharge if they want to buy their way out of the “basic dinner” service — basic dinner is served cold and you don’t get to choose where you sit
  • Making sure we can turn the lighting at the table dark enough so that we can actually encourage everyone to sleep rather than eat; not at all related, we have to make sure we have enough magazines for the cooks 😉

Bottom line

Wish us freaking luck. I can’t believe we literally just spent four hours shopping for this stuff, and now we’re going to spend lord-only-knows how long cooking.

Looking at the cookbook, two separate components of our salad have to marinade for four hours and then simmer for three hours (seriously?!?), and that’s before the cooking even starts.

The short ribs require making a sachet (whatever the hell that is?), and boiling it for two hours. It also says to “cook rice according to package instructions.”

There’s just one problem with that…

Dear short ribs…

And let’s not even talk about the dessert. The first instruction there is to soak for three hours.

I hope you guys know just how much we love and appreciate you, because…

  1. What you need is a “hidden menu” of the basic, yet good things. Want chopsticks? Want an actual cloth napkin? Those are not listed, but on the so-called “hidden menu”, just ask and we won’t have any of those!

    Also crank up the air conditioning to feel like Antarctica.

  2. @tiffany – Please have a bunch of fire extinguishers ready. You must be really brave to let a grown man who can’t cook use your kitchen. First time I used the stove I put in too much oil and our cabinets caught on fire…

  3. @ Ben — Wait, what? I thought Tiffany was doing all the cooking. OMG, this should be good…Nailed It! 🙂

  4. You forgot to add that you will probably run out the meat entree and all that is left is the pasta.

    Looking forward to the next post and please a video…….PLEASE !!!

  5. Love, love, LOVE the humor! For a moment I thought it was Andrew writing. Where’s Ford? Was he smart enough to stay the hell away?

    Keep the updates coming!

  6. If you can’t even handle meat or the thought that it is an animal you shouldn’t be consuming it. The way it gets raised, mutilated, and slaughtered on the way to the supermarket is so much worse then the sanitized plastic bag you buy it in. If you aren’t okay with that whole process, then you should seriously consider going back to vegetarian (or vegan).

  7. This is hilarious, you should really video the process as its impossible for there not to be some youtube gold from this.

  8. Given that you’ve never cooked, you’re headed for a bumpy ride! Frozen octopus is really difficult to get right, tends to be rubbery and tough when thawed and cooked but whatever the outcome, it can’t worse than the food served onboard UA. Good luck – can’t wait for the video!

  9. @Chris its Jan 3rd haha so…not a lot of posts thus far but I think its safe to say this will continue to be one of/if not the best post for the year.

    @Brian – LOL

    I do hope that Tiffany is going to supervise for the safety and wellbeing of the guests…do they know what they are in for?

  10. The Pocky stix are sold at Costco, just down the street from the Best Asian Market. Let me know if you want more, and I’ll pick some up for you.

    I live in Spokane, what time is dinner?

  11. Cooking doesn’t need to be hard. And it’s way cheaper than ordering out all the time. Recommend picking up a few ina garden cook books. They’re great for people like you and me who don’t cool

  12. “All the food needs to be prepared tonight, then refrigerated, and then microwaved tomorrow, prior to being carelessly plated and then served.”

    This is fantastic, can’t wait to see the results! One of the best posts in years!

  13. This is HILARIOUS, and I look forward to reading the subsequent blog posts about this.

    I hate to be a downer, but if you’re “actually disgusted at the thought of handling raw meat and anything that’s bloody or looks like an animal,” you shouldn’t eat meat.

  14. I cannot get past you have never cooked before! Anything that is not prepared in your own kitchen (inc family & friends kitchen) is not ummmm…. I cant believe you have never cooked ANYTHING!!!

    Sigh! 🙁

    Well, good luck with the cookbook.

  15. This should be on Food Networks’ Worst cooks in America show! I want to say I’m just kidding but I don’t know if I am…..

  16. 1. This is going to be hilarious!
    2. AA needs to open up a seafood restaurant 😉

    3. Please tell me you have plenty of working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers

  17. Hahah! You’re so sassy in the post and I love it; can’t wait for the sequel on how you did. Good luck!

  18. I have a United Food Cart in Storage – with a little bit more notice you could have borrowed it – well there would have been the tiny matter of getting it to you from Texas….

  19. Don’t forget to roll out the beverage cart with flights of wine and signature cocktails past all your guests and then promptly get rid of it!

  20. Ben – give it up .. .there are some things we’re good @ some things we not … I don’t think this is your Forte. Take Tiffany out for a good meal – dump the cooking idea. Focus on your strengths 😉

  21. Made my decade. Best post. Bravo.

    Remember to poison little children and those who need assistance first, then our military, then our elites by some random color coded strategy that nobody follows anyway

  22. @Ben I get you’re trying to have fun with this, and seeing the outcome will be funny. But I think you’re being a little unfair in the way you’re portraying United and the cookbook.

    If you knew anything about cooking, which you’ve admitted you don’t, you’ll know that many many entities release their own cookbooks. The only way this is related to Polaris or in flight catering is by the name.

    The recipes in that book are from acclaimed chefs that are part of the Trotter project that while advises United on menu recommendations, doesn’t actually directly provide meals. These dishes are thoughtful, creative, and complex. Most airline food isn’t. So, it’d be nice if you would see the difference and tone down the United rhetoric.

  23. Re your guests: may I suggest that you overbook the seats at the dining room table and then “reaccomodate” the extra person? Also you could seat your guests in Polaris chairs

  24. “All the food needs to be prepared tonight, then refrigerated, and then microwaved tomorrow, prior to being carelessly plated and then served.”

    No Ben this is 2019. You need to pre-plate the meals tonight before microwaving tomorrow. 🙂

  25. I know a lot of people generally avoid cooking, but to have never even tried… Joking aside, I’m not sure how you’re not incredibly embarrassed by that!

  26. This post, and the comments made, had me falling off the couch laughing… don’t forget to go hide in the kitchen after you serve your guests, and eat something that looks and tastes 10 x better… make some grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup, for the people in the know….

  27. Funny. Esp the Octopus!! If u have never cooked –you picked a tough one. You needed some cooking classes first!

  28. Showing Lucky, who deftly travels through the world’s busiest and most remote airports, struggling with everyday domestic tasks is actually a pretty funny concept.

  29. And also, don’t forget to do all of this while you have them stay over at your place, then turn on all the lights at 2AM, and wait an extra 40 minutes before asking them what they want for dinner.

  30. Lucky, this is great! But in United-speak, your dishes can better be described as:
    “The Fish”
    “The Chicken”
    “The Beef”
    “The Pasta”

    Then you can majorly roll your eyes and just walk away when “The Fish” isn’t quite what your guest was expecting 😀

  31. Ben’s extraordinary dislike of airline crews truly shines through in this post. Quite remarkable.

    Regardless I look forward to seeing how the dinner turns out.

  32. Don’t forget that if any of your guests aren’t at your front door 30 minutes before the party they must be denied entry and you’ll have to upgrade the neighbors.

  33. Don’t forget that if any of your guests aren’t at your/Tiff’s front door 30 minutes before the party you’ll have to deny them entry. You can then upgrade the neighbors.

  34. This will be a fun review:
    I usually spend 2 minutes trying to figure out how the knife works.
    Then I just stand there for 3 minutes – crying…
    Because I’m at 2 feet…
    Waring an United apron…

  35. For full United experience:

    Please invite Dr. David Dao for dinner and then drag him out of the room. Don’t worry about not preparing his meal. He is there just to be dragged out before dinner, no meal required.

  36. Rofl
    you must have major reservations as far as unprepared food is concerned…
    Never seen anyone wearing an apron while shopping for food

  37. after all, I’m there primarily for their safety
    You do the cook and you guarantee the safety?This is very illogical.
    And to be fair to Lucky.Tiffany should dess like a cabin attendant or pilot.

  38. I was wondering why you would do this. Now that I see the pleasure most of your readers take in your misery , I can understand.

    I don’t want to see you miserable. That menu is doomed, so I say just give away the food, and go back to being happy.

  39. I don’t mean to be unduly negative, but this is biting off a lot for a kitchen rookie. Maybe you should have started with something more modest, like a couple of Air Canada wraps and tapas plates before delving into the more complicated stuff.

    Good luck!!

  40. Good luck!

    Seriously how are you not 400lb overweight with all this travelling and eating out? What’s the secret? If I were travelling like that and never cooking they’d have to wheel me around! I really want to know as it can be very difficult to stay healthy when you’re nomadic – thanks!

  41. Lucky’s just grumpy cuz Best Asian doesn’t accept credit cards.

    Hey guys, the passenger in 99K is allergic to peanuts

  42. Why am I not the least bit surprised that Ben has never cooked a meal in his life? I clearly don’t know the guy, but this seems appropriate for him.

  43. Can’t stop laughing. One example: “since they don’t really know how to cook either”

    Wonder how many United employees are following this escapade!

    Happy New Year to the OMAAT gang!

  44. -If anyone bring a guest, you should call the cops to remove him. (also, some punches in the face are better than no punches)
    -If there’s any pets in the house, they should be accomodated on the overhead bin
    -Don’t forget to delay dinner because of turbulence
    -Give everyone pillows and blankets, and make them use it or place it near them
    -When all guests arrive, lock all the doors and windows. After dinner, go hide anywhere in the house and just leave a call button on the table. After the 4th call, you can appear with the most scary face and ask “What do you want?”
    -Don’t forget to never address your guests by name.

    This has the chance to be the best series of the year, and I can’t wait to see the results.

  45. This is brilliant. Do remember to wedge in your guests so that they can’t leave to go to the loo mid-course

  46. Yay! Love that OMAAT celebrates travel culture in all its diverse forms, not just points hacks.

  47. I’m still stuck on the comment that you’ve NEVER cooked before…like anything! How is that even possible?

    There is an entire world at Costco that could be open to you! 85% of that just involves re-heating!

  48. This brings a whole new level of value to the relationships with your friends. And that means us, too! Priceless.
    And for Tiffany’s part in this: WELL DONE!

  49. Hi Ben, I’m Trey, and I’m one of United’s sommeillers working remotely. They always like to say they hire “the best and the greatest American chefs and sommeillers” but to be honest, they just hire college students who are barely 21, but I’m 22, so don’t you worry, I’m the most experienced sommeiller United has! Here are my suggested wine parings for this meal:

    Appetizer: Franzia Pinot Grigio 20-whatever
    Salad: Gallo Family Chardonnay, vintage whatever
    Main: the cheapest Beaujolais-Nouveau available, with Kool-Aid mix available upon request
    Dessert: Boone’s Farm Strawberry

    And for champagne, Duc de Paris, J Roget, or André in a Veuve Cliquot bottle. Because we’re Polaris and we’re classi.

  50. This is going to be hilarious. Tiffanny – good luck. I hope your kitchen survives.

    And Ben, as hilarious as this is, may I suggest that at some point in your life, a grown man should learn to cook the basics?

  51. A youtube video is definitely required for this! 100% agree with Jacob’s comment! Good Luck(y)!

  52. you really are a stereotypical poof with your “yasssss” comment. I thought you were better than that. Also, why do Americans say “artisanal”? Why can’t you just say “artisan” like the English?

  53. i’ve never made chicken confit but if it’s anything like making the duck kind, Lucky is out of time… and lucky (no pun intended) for him he may have missed the window or he may go back to being a vegetarian.

    i would definitely voted on the confit to see if he could do it.

    great post and fantastic idea. Good luck, bud!

  54. Doing a confit and braising are the same process, albeit with different temperatures and cooking liquids. And they’re basically impossible to screw up even if you’ve never scrambled an egg or boiled pasta. So you’ve got the makings of two great dishes taken care of — even if you botch the rest of the preparation. You can do this.

  55. Might I suggest watching a few episodes of the Barefoot Contessa on Food Network.

    *Cue background music, piano*

    Roasted shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce as an easy appetizer with the volume turned up.
    An iceberg salad but with added chopped apples and white balsamic.
    Follow with a main course of mustard marinated pork tenderloin and roasted vegetables or cauliflower gratin.
    And finally dessert of store bought ice cream with mixed berries and hazlenut/almond liqueur.

    *Music crescendo for forte*

    Today it’s all about “Cooking for Travel Buffs”

    *Music crescendo to fortissimo*

    Commercial break

  56. It’s a great marketing strategy to create a cookbook. Anything that reminds the consumer of the airline once they’ve gone home is a great idea. I bought playing cards from an airline once as a gift.

    I think it’s adorable that you had never cooked before. Like ever. Thanks for sharing this first with us.

  57. OMG – your post is hilarious and the comments had me roaring!!! Can’t believe you’ve never done more than boil water. This should be epic. Keep 911 on speed dial.
    Waiting for the video.

  58. Dont forget the case of Duc de Paris to wash it all down… time to “touch trolley, run to the galley”

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