Let’s start with an about me. I’m Gilbert, I’m 6’2”, caucasian, born in New York, of vaguely European descent and am entirely non denominational when it comes to religion. However, yesterday- I ordered a hindu meal on a plane. Why? Because I knew it would be delicious. Is that wrong?

I Meant No Offense, Yet I Turned Heads With Cabin Crew…

Perhaps it was because I was flying on American Airlines (I’ll let you take that as you wish)- but the crew member who came around to ask for my meal seemed genuinely shocked. She glanced down at her meal spreadsheet, noticed I had a special “hindu” meal and looked at me as if it was the first sighting of big foot, on earth.

“Spice Dishes, Often Curries”. You Had Me At Hello…

I am fortunate enough to have had many steaks on many planes- and they’re almost always better left on the ground. American’s menu for yesterday’s flight, even the veggie option- didn’t strike the right notes with me. Though I will say, I appreciated being able to select them 30 days in advance. When looking through the special meals, as a huge (die hard) fan of Indian food from both North and South, a curry sounded perfect. Tastebuds and sensitive smells are lost in flight, and curries consistently hold up as veteran choices on planes. Biryani’s too.

Am I Wrong To Select A Hindu Meal, Even If I’m Not Hindu?

I respect and appreciate the rights for all religions and groups to practice freely. It’s crucial. However, I am not particularly religious. Is it wrong of me to select a meal purely on taste, and not on religious or ethnic necessity or tendency. Personally: I don’t think anyone is getting hurt here. The airline must provide special meals constantly, caterers (especially in London) are constantly prepared for this, so I see no victim. I am not intentionally mocking or subverting any religious cause by eating food, at least not intentionally. Plus, sometimes airlines offer curries, biryani’s or other ethnic food staples anyway, without ordering a special meal. Is this a moral conundrum?

Your thoughts…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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22 Comments

  1. Absolutely not. You did nothing wrong. It’s an option available for all passengers.

    To deny you a Hindu meal due to your religion (or lack thereof) would be discrimination, so…

  2. Not at all. Who are they to judge or assume you’re not of a certain religion because of the color of your skin?
    Perhaps you could have converted to Hinduism. If they offer it, it’s your prerogative to request it. It’s not like you’re “taking” it from someone of that religion.

  3. You are spot on that curries taste better in air compared to a lot of other foods.
    Also, its not wrong to order a special meal. Its not like Indian food is reserved for Indians. Taking a handicap spot when you are not handicapped is wrong, but this is just a matter of preference.

    Vegetarians too often ask for the brownies or other dessert items from the non-veg meals since it just tastes better despite having eggs in them.

    Indian meals are not that uncommon on international airlines any more so I would not feel bad about it at all..now if you ordered a “Jain Meal” on a flight to S. America..that would be hard for the airline.

  4. You are not wrong for ordering a hindu meal. The crew were not wrong either to shocked. I believe most of them were raised and educated in a culture to judge that only a hindu can order a hindu meal, and your appearance doesn’t resemble anything they thought they knew about hindu. Its not intentionally racism, purely a reaction from a human who have little understanding and knowledge but insist they know and understand everything. They are, afterall are there for your safety…..

  5. It’s a freakin’ meal on a plane that you have an option to order… there’s no reason it wouldn’t be ok. I feel bad for the youth today being worried about offending someone with every little move they make, horrible way to live.

  6. No problem. You can eat what you want on the ground, so should you be able to in the air if available. Next time tell them you were the new hipster Maharishi Yogi. Too bad they didn’t have curried goat.

  7. No problem at all. It’s not like you were taking away a meal from anyone. Some folks on Flyertalk have preferences for certain special meals and occasionally will post similar stories of odd looks from FAs or even other passengers. It’s just out of their ordinary routine.

  8. Totally fine – if you order in advance. In that case, it’s “no harm, no foul” and no-one loses out. But asking for the off-menu vegetarian option on the spur of the moment because ‘the chicken looks a bit funny’ isn’t on because you might be depriving a genuine vegetarian who pre-ordered in advance. The above assuming the airline provides something edible as the vegetarian option and a vegetarian would want to eat it in the first place…

  9. Not a problem at all. Since you’re requesting it in advance and the airline is prepared for it, there isn’t an issue, right? Only a problem if you decide you like a special meal inflight and the crew gives it to you leaving the person with dietary restrictions meal-less.

    -coming from a passenger that only eats halal

  10. “I’m Gilbert, I’m 6’2”, caucasian, born in New York, of vaguely European descent and am entirely non denominational when it comes to religion.”

    Seems a bit OTT to start the post with your Grindr bio.

  11. I cannot even believe this is a conversation. Are you worried about being accused of ‘cultural appropriation’? It is a meal that they prepare in advance for you. Did anyone receive less than what they were properly entitled to? I would never have entered my mind that you were doing anything unethical. If I were serving it to you I would never have thought twice about what your ethnicity or background was. Why? Because I don’t care. Eat the meal you freaking want and stop stressing the small stuff.

  12. I did not receive either of my Hindu meals on my United Airlines LHR-SFO flight last month London to San Francisco. The flight attendant asked me to change seats with the grandfather of two preteen girls. He ended up being served both of my Hindu meals. Those three looked Indian. I do not. The Sikh grandfather passed both of the Hindu meals to one of his granddaughters. She ate both of my meals.

    Flight attendant apologized for the mistake. Two times after each meal.

  13. “I’m Gilbert, I’m 6’2”, caucasian, born in New York” and I love ethnic food. Sounds like a Tinder profile, that is trying a bit hard and kinda obnoxious j/k

  14. I am Hindu and Indian. There are plenty of non-Indian converts to Hinduism, especially within certain sects, so a “white Hindu” is definitely not an oxymoron. In any case, your race shouldn’t matter. Moreover I actually wish more non-Indians would order Hindu meals so that the airlines have more incentive to offer them LOL.

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