Embrace the Chaos, Eat Anything You Want at the Airport (No Matter What Time It Is)

When in purgatory, nutrition and guilt cease to exist.

A person dines at an airport restaurant

Mak Dill / Shutterstock

When the heavens and the earth came into being, the planet was at first a shapeless, chaotic mass. Included amongst that brooding mass of chaos were airports which are neither heaven nor hell. They’re a place where time doesn’t exist and you have no control over your own fate — a purgatory where walking in bare socks across cold, dirty floors is normal. Disembodied voices from overhead tell you what your future holds. Your 10 a.m. flight is now departing at 4:45 p.m.? OK. A suspiciously moist blueberry muffin sealed in plastic wrap costs $6? Sure.

When you’re in an airport, nothing matters. It’s a place where time, attire and calories don’t count. You can eat or wear whatever you want and absolve yourself of any guilt. At the airport, someone wearing a three-piece suit and wingtip shoes can be sitting next to someone in bedazzled pajamas and Nike Slides. One is drinking a glass of orange juice with eggs Benedict and the other is having a Negroni and a ribeye. Welcome to the underworld of air travel. 

When I’m at the airport, all bets are off. Restaurants I would normally shun in real life suddenly shine like beacons of culinary hope and it’s perfectly all right to enjoy a pulled pork sandwich with very questionable meat. Fast food is ripe for ordering and the number two meal deal at McDonalds seems more accessible in Terminal D than it did the day before in the real world. I once ordered a $15 glass of Prosecco that ended up being only about five ounces of bubbly served in a plastic flute. And I was fine with it, because it was the airport and what other choice did I have? I gave myself permission years ago to eat what I want while in the airport, from an Egg McMuffin to Dippin’ Dots. 

There are plenty of culinary options at airports and as long as you’re OK with taking out a second mortgage to pay for it, you can eat whatever you want. Some even have restaurants run by celebrity chefs if you really want to make the most of your time. Gordon Ramsay has an eatery at London’s Heathrow and you can’t swing a dead cat in an airport without hitting a Wolfgang Puck soup or sandwich. Get there three hours early and dine in a leisurely fashion at an upscale restaurant five minutes away from your gate. Or you can do what I do which is get there just under the wire and shove a Cinnabon down your throat while running at full force all the way from security to Gate 79. 

The next time you’re in that Twilight Zone known as an airport, you treat yourself to an exorbitantly expensive slice of pizza and follow it up with a bag of Doritos if it’s going to make you happy. Traveling can be stressful and it’s a lot easier to find comfort in the form of a croissan'wich than it is to get a last minute Xanax refill. It’s okay to stop treating your body like a temple for an hour while you sit at the gate between a whining toddler and someone playing video slots on their iPhone without earphones. Let a pair of churros be your earplugs and don’t worry about it. Wrap yourself up in that apathy like you’re a Cheesy Gordita Crunch. The crispy corn taco shell and meat filling are the reality of life, but the pillowy soft flour tortilla and the gloopy, gloppy cheese sauce is the airport that makes it no longer matter. 

Eat all of it, but make sure to save room for the food you’ll get on the airplane. You don’t want to miss out on the five or six complimentary Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips and the little piece of biscotti. Being in an airport isn’t easy, but let the situation wash over you and cleanse your soul. Just pray that the airplane bathroom is close enough to your assigned seat.

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