27.8.18

AN ARCH DELUXE BOXED LUNCH IS STILL A BOXED LUNCH.

There's nothing quite like the spin a business engages in to sugar coat a price increase or a degradation of its service as an attempt to enhance the consumer experience, or something.  Consider Amtrak's current Lake Shore and Capitol Limited dining services, now a standard box of flakes, fruits, and nuts at breakfast, and four options, including (after rider push-back) one hot item and one vegetarian item offered either at midday (eastbound) or in the evening (westbound.)  Here's how a correspondent at Travel and Trains describes the non-breakfast offering.  "Frankly, the quality was as good or better that some of the meals we’ve had on international business class flights."  I'm reminded of my dad's question when one of his kids tried to get away with something.  "Why compare yourself with the worst?"  Arguably, we could also be grateful that Mrs Obama's school lunch task force didn't participate in coming up with the food combinations.  Perhaps, though, it's because Our Political Masters want Amtrak to spend less money on food.

Here's breakfast on the Lake Shore, August 21.  A Practice and Performance report will be forthcoming, likely after Labor Day.


Coffee and the big bottle of juice are included, and coffee refills are available in the dining car.


There's a goodly amount of stuff in there: yogurt to which one can add granola or berries, a good-sized blueberry muffin, plenty of sliced fruit, an energy bar.  Sorry, no French toast.  Perhaps for a fee the cafe car attendant (under the new dispensation, coach passengers can buy the standard McAmfood there) will heat up a bagel.

Afterwards, the box is a useful container for all the scrap packaging that is involved.


Yes, dear reader, your Contemporary Dining Experience comes complete with a virtue signal.  That box is made of balsa wood (!) and the card informs you it is "sustainably sourced USDA BioPreferred (anybody who runs words together in this way should be keelhauled) and coated with waxed paper."  Plus, to get younger readers thinking about The Giving Tree, it's not any old balsa wood, no it is "salvaged from tree stumps leftover from sustainable logging -- so no trees are ever harvested or cut down for this product."  (Never mind that a sensible forester, upon discovering that there are people willing to pay money for the stumps, is going to figure out ways to have more trees to harvest for the other products that aren't so caught up in their preening.)  We then discover "no chemicals, waxes, dyes, or additives are applied."  Strictly speaking, that's true: the wax paper that holds the box together has a bit of adhesive on it.  How do I know that?  Because as I contemplated this box, the thought of getting some largish sheets of approximately 1/16" thick balsa wood by disassembling the wax paper occurred to me, and right now there are several square feet of building material drying out down cellar.

Presumably, all the commingled trash goes to some kind of sorting facility, where the remaining wood can go to a compost pile.  Or perhaps it's all stuff in a landfill now.

Sunday night, August 26, dinner in the diner on the Capitol Limited looked like this.


The Lead Service Agent aboard the train had arranged pickup times and items to be picked up, something that is likely necessary when there are three sleepers and close to a hundred passengers to be served.  I requested the antipasto meal for a seven p.m. pickup (resetting my internal clock to Central time and a notional evening meal around six.)  It's all in the bag.

Note, though, it's an anonymous green bag, no Amtrak markings, no bragging by Fresh Creative Cuisine out of Baltimore, the caterer, either.  In the event this box lunch idea craters, all the talk of technology driven, artisan food service notwithstanding, there aren't going to be any reminders.  That's strange, given that the purpose of a tote bag is to signal something: how else does a food snob identify another food snob at the farmer's market, without a public radio tote?

The box: more scratchbuilding supplies.


Under the new dispensation, each sleeper passenger rates one adult beverage gratis.  The first class lounge is open into the evening, selling additional.  But this sort of prepackaged food service and bus your own tables doesn't generate a lot by way of tips to the one attendant.

The Amtrak experience, at least the dining car part of it, is also gone.


That's the dining end of the Cross Country Cafe, itself an attempt to convert a Superliner diner into a diner-lounge, and here, about 7.30 pm west of Cumberland, it's empty.  In the days of dining service, this area would be full with the fourth seating, and coach passengers with disposable income could mingle with sleeping car passengers.

It got better use this morning coming into Chicago, but again, some proper French Toast would be nice.

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