If you take one thing from this blog let it be the following; ordering a couscous salad on a plane with an infant is not a good idea.
In my defence I wanted the chicken pesto pasta salad but they were out. The flight attendant suggested the couscous salad, personally recommending its deliciousness. I looked down at Milo who was at the time dangling upside down from his waist seeing what he could find to eat under my seat. “It will be messy” I said. “I don’t clean the plane”, came the quick retort. “OK then” I said, shrugging, and the disappointingly small shrink-wrapped salad was sitting on my tray in a jiffy, looking up at me in its unappetising way.
Milo immediately sensed a disturbance in the force so clambered his way upright, kicking me in the neck as I helped him up. His little face arrived smiling and chewing, always an unnerving combination when your child has just emerged from underneath an aeroplane seat.
I left it wrapped for a moment as I tried to visualize a technique that might offer some chance of either Milo or I consuming at least a little, and minimise the severity of the couscous hail that must soon rain down upon those lucky few seated around us.
Milo is used to food in paste form or cutlet form; couscous is right in the middle. I started to get nervous and considered just leaving it untouched on the tray to be retrieved when the trolley came rattling back in 20 minutes or so. There were just so many of those little couscous globules in there. Even if I were able to control 60% of them, which was ambitious, there would still be literally hundreds of errant orbs to be scattered here and there and, as the saying goes, everywhere.
Milo made my decision for me. He had spotted the small tub of future mayhem and was giving it his best ‘Inquisitor’. I gave a slight shrug to nobody and rendered a small breach in the top right-hand corner.
My first plan was to simply offer it scoop by scoop to Milo on a spoon. This was a bad plan. Milo greeted the first spoonful with his always welcome, not-at-all-annoying method of demonstrating culinary displeasure by taking the couscous out of his mouth with his hand and dropping it on the ground. I didn’t learn immediately so offered him a second spoonful, same result.
Recently Milo has responded well to having his own bowl and spoon to play with at mealtimes, a distraction which holds his attention as he is being fed. A more socially acceptable Baby Einstein I suppose. So I gave it a try.
I sprinkled a few couscous particles into his bowl (which is held by suction onto the tray) and gave him his spoon. Milo violently thrashed at the bowl until this poor diversionary party of couscous had been flung well beyond the three seats our sensible cabin crew had allocated to us, and onto the floor. Unperturbed I attempted to execute the second part of the bowl diversion play and offered him a third spoonful.
This time the spoon did not breach Milo’s lips. Sensing my intention he thrust at it with a savage blow of his plastic spoon as if we were spoon-sabering for our lives. The couscous jerked forcefully into the air and then hailed down silently onto my lap. I took a deep breath.
I would not say I was panicking at this point but I was certainly ready to concede defeat. The bulk of the couscous was still contained but we were definitely approaching a tally of hundreds of spheres already scattered at our feet and in the aisle, and no clear path to depositing the remainder safely in Milo’s stomach.
I moved into damage control and starting shoveling the couscous into my own mouth before my alarmingly swift child could get his hands on the mothership. Like falling on a stale tasting couscous grenade I gulped at the maximum speed allowed by the tiny, terrorist-proof plastic spoon they had offered me.
My child was momentarily distracted by a few couscous granules he had discovered clinging to his trousers so I did manage to consume almost half of the salad before he became aware that a fine opportunity for mayhem was passing him by. I had one hand on my toothpick spoon and one hand on Milo to protect him from toppling forward, which left the steadily emptying tub unguarded.
In one motion Milo looked up and swiped sideways with a mighty swish of his right hand, as if he were perusing photographs on a giant iPad. He collected the tub flush with the back of his hand and with no ballast at all, damn those lightweight fluffy grains, the remaining couscous arced in slow motion high into the pressurised cabin and, sailing on the air-conditioning current, traveled a surprising distance, drifting down silently like volcanic ash to rest on jackets, scarves, shoulders and seats.
I placed the now dented and empty tub on the ground, folded up our tray-table and we continued with the flight.
Post couscous apocalypse
This morning Milo and I boarded our first plane together without Kuepps. We were off on an interstate journey to visit my dad.
Arriving at the airport we were looking forward to special treatment, probably a special check-in desk for single parents with infant children, I presumed a glass of sparkling water with lemon for me. A quick glance around confirmed we were far from special; Baby Bjorns, Ergo Slings, Umbrella Strollers, wriggly babies everywhere. We swallowed our disappointment at being quite ordinary and joined the rather long queue; no sparkling water, no lemon.
Our journey through the airport was straight forward although we were randomly selected for an explosives check which I thought was a little uncouth given I had no spare hands and a squirming baby in my hands. We passed the test and were on our way.
On the plane we were fortunate to be given a row of three seats which allowed Milo to be reasonably free-range throughout the flight, strolling back and forth and presenting his pointy fingers at the customers behind us. These customers were all very gracious and pointed back, outsourcing my parenting a little. The rest of my parenting duties were performed by the overhead light which I flicked on and off repeatedly, much to Milo’s never-diminishing delight.
With the exception of the couscous mistake the flight was reasonably incident free. We arrived a little ragged, found a taxi and made it into town in no time.
My dad enjoyed watching Milo take on a lamb cutlet first-hand at dinner and then we spent a productive 15 minutes conducting a Milo-led child proofing of the apartment. Like a hunting dog Milo would sniff out the dangers, we would then scurry in behind him and remove them.
Tonight Milo will be re-acquainted with the travel cot; the first time as a fully sentient being. It is unlikely to go well.
- Number of couscous granules discovered inside Milo’s onesie this evening – 57
- Minutes of sleep for Milo on the plane – 0
- Letters written to Sydney Airport requesting sparkling water and lemon on arrival – 0
- Number of times overhead light flicked on – 85