Antediluvian lettuce, pears and processed cheese have joined swollen feet and lost luggage as accepted risks for air travelers.

Therefore, when British Airways offered what it described as "the ultimate Christmas dinner," it was natural enough to assume the promise of said dinner should be taken with a pinch or two of salt.What the airline was proposing was indeed rather more than a few slices of microwaved turkey roll and a stale mince pie.

"The first course," promised the press release, "will be served in London, the main course on board the Concorde and dessert will be in New York."

Even allowing for the supersonic factor, the program sounded rather more like "the ultimate in slow service." However, the lure of Mach 2 mangetouts and chocolate delice at twice the speed of sound, Bottom Line proved irresistable.

BA's trump card was played in the form of a splendidly be-toqued Swiss gentleman, super-chef Anton Mosimann. He had been recruited to produce a set of menus for the 1991 Concorde in-flight catering, and he was on hand to give a detailed description of the 20 or so concoctions being developed to tempt the jaded palates of the seen-it-all jet set.

"We found that what people really wanted was something light and healthy," explained Mosimann above the roar of the afterburners. "So we have avoided fat and oil for fresher, healthier tastes.'

While this might have weighed heavy on the heart of a true bon vivant, the athletic gyrations performed by Concorde's bijou cabin during its climb to 58,000 feet made the more lily-livered of us glad to be free of excess baggage in the form of spotted dick and custard.

With a Concorde transatlantic crossing taking 3-1/2 hours, there is barely time to order a "cold roast fillet of beef with tofu and yoghurt herb sauce," let alone digest it, but BA cabin crew are nothing if not persitent in making sure you eat everything placed before you.

A steady stream of delicacies accompanied by Mosimann's enthusiastic commentary had been fed to the press corps some three hours before takeoff, so by the time the chicken en croute put in an appearance signs of fatigue were beginning to show.

The exercise and Mosimann's efforts are part of the strategy to lure more punters back onto a plane once cruelly described as the fastest white elephant in the world.

The recession has bitten in the supersonic sector, and some of Concorde's passengers are trading down into mere first-class at around $2,000 less. Whether they can be coaxed back by featherlight chocolate mousse remains to be seen.