…and Grilled Lime Chicken with Tropical Salsa By Susan Nelson

Airlines are so far out of hand with their rules and hidden, or blatantly exhibited fees, that I’d rather ride by yak to New York than go through the hassle involved in boarding a plane. A couple of days ago I read that Malaysia Airlines has decreed that no infants can ride in first class. I get the basic premise because I’ve been on long flights with screaming children and understand that it’s about as pleasant as having an ingrown toenail, and worse if it’s your child doing the screaming, but what are we to do if we have to go from Point A to Point B and have chosen to reproduce? Maybe that commercial that aired recently with the little kid dressed in a dog costume and packed in a pet carrier isn’t too far of the mark. Someone suggested to me that they have airplanes that are “child friendly” and those for adults only. Really? The yak is just looking better and better.

In my misspent youth I applied to one of the larger domestic carriers for a position as a flight attendant. Job requirements for the position were a little stricter back in the day. If your weight wasn’t in proportion to your height you got fined, and if it got out of line with the corporate parameters you got grounded or worse. Uniforms were a little more “Judy Carne-ish” from Laugh In, for those of you that remember her and I was surprised to learn during the interview process that each employee was responsible for buying all their own uniforms, special luggage, etc., required for the job. In particular, I was interested in getting involved in their mainland to Hawaii flights, but it was explained that when you’re a newbie you are more likely to find yourself on a red-eye to Des Moines than sipping Mai Tai’s on Waikiki. Still, I would have liked to have given it a go, but my husband did not share my enthusiasm and so I bid a fond farewell to my short-lived but much coveted career in the clouds.

Since then I’ve flown to Hawaii on four occasions and loved it each time. What’s not to love, really? I read somewhere that those living there are among the happiest citizens in the U.S., and I can’t say I choked on my English muffin when I heard this news. Beautiful beaches, beautiful people, tourists with money to spend coming and going on an hourly basis, abundant vibrantly colored flowers, cattle ranches, amazing surf, paradise in a bag. The cost of living from what I understand is incredibly high, but perhaps the quality of living balances the scales. On pondering it, I suppose I’d rather be eating a Ball Park frank underneath a swaying palm overlooking the clear blue Pacific than dining on escargot watching my neighbor do Pilates in his boxer shorts out my dining room window.

But, I digress, On my third trip there I visited with my second husband. Please refer to your scorecard. It was my first opportunity to fly first class, and coincidentally lined up directly up with my last opportunity to do the same. This was back in the day, the early 1980’s, when airlines still provided food for their passengers and those same passengers were actually treated like customers instead of a herd of unruly Hereford’s. Before we took this trip I never understood why anyone would choose to pay the considerable extra money required for the privilege of flying “up front” with the special people. My husband flew extensively for business so we’d taken an upgrade that cost us nothing but flying miles. On boarding the plane, before I’d even placed my purse under the seat in front of me, we were handed a glass of mimosa and there was a light snack consisting of a huge bowl of macadamia nuts and some breakfast breads. I liked it. In coach you are tossed a small bag with approximately five nuts tucked inside and you dig in your pocket if you want to wet your whistle. I was hooked. Sign me up. Now that I think of it Malaysia Airlines has a point, just tuck the kiddies in coach with their nanny and bring on the mimosa.

That trip was memorable, for several reasons. On the flight over we were told we were in for some “slight turbulence”, or so the voice over the P.A. identifying himself as the pilot, described the situation. Now, I’m a white knuckler kind of flyer, so for me if I’m in a large tube flying high over nothing but a huge expanse of ocean, no turbulence of any kind no matter how “slight”, no rivets that aren’t fastened correctly, and no tears no matter how minute anywhere in the skin of the airplane, are acceptable to my mind. The flight attendants had just handed us our drinks, which incidentally were served in actual glass glasses, when the fasten seat belts sign came on. They announced that all in-flight services would curtailed until we passed through the bit of rough weather ahead. Okay. About ten minutes later the plane was shaking like a paint can at Home Depot. After my kidneys had relocated to my chest cavity and I thought it couldn’t get worse, the plane took a sudden deep dip causing the liquid in my husband’s drink to suspend in midair while the glass remained in his hand. The tray table closed and then opened without assistance, and a stewardess trying to belt herself into her seatbelt rose in the air as though weightless, knees still bent as if she remained seated. Mommy.

Several overhead bins popped open spewing pillows and coats on the floor and passenger’s laps, and just when I started atoning for my past sins we found ourselves in smooth air once again leaving the passengers and crew shaken but not stirred. Once order was restored, and nerves calmed, they served us a delicious prime rib dinner on real dishes and thankfully we landed uneventfully some time later in the airport on Oahu. I believe I kissed the tarmac when I stepped off the bottom step. After having our picture taken with a complimentary lei around our necks we were shuttled to the Hilton Hawaiian Village to enjoy the first leg of our trip. This only marred by the fact that our luggage, it appeared, had decided at the last-minute to catch a flight to Seattle so other than the shorts and tops we were wearing we didn’t have so much as a toothbrush. Thankfully, everything showed up in the morning and from that point on our trip was nearly perfect.

This recipe brings me to mind of balmy summer days and white sandy beaches. Aloha.

Grilled Lime Chicken with Tropical salsa

4 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
2 tsp. lime zest
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup honey
2 kiwi fruit, peeled and diced
1/2 small papaya, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 small mango, peeled, seeded and diced
1/3 cup red onion, diced
1 Tbsp. cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine

In shallow dish mix together lime zest, salt, pepper, oil and garlic. In medium bowl whisk together lime juice and honey until well blended. Whisk half of this mixture into oil mixture in shallow dish. Reserve other half of lime juice/honey mixture for salsa.

Add chicken breasts to mixture in shallow dish.

Add fruit, onion, cilantro and jalapeno to reserved lime juice/honey mixture for salsa. Stir to mix well. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Grill chicken over medium heat for 15-20 minutes or until juices run clear and internal temperature registers 170 degrees. Spoon salsa over top of each breast. Serve with a spinach salad with fresh strawberries and mandarin oranges for a nice touch. Serves 4.