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Why food on the plane is not that tasty as on the ground?

The taste is NOT at the height

Let technical progress outwitted nature, the human body on an airplane anyway feels "not at ease". Even the food seems insipid, but it’s not the airlines that are to blame, it is the sense of taste perception that betrayes the passenger.

While the plane gains altitude, the human body is under stress. The body reacts to the flight test not only with a nauseous and headache - an adequate perception of smells and tastes also remains on the ground. "Rubber" meat, "paper" vegetables and watery juices give little pleasure to passengers, but cooks and products have nothing to do with - low humidity, pressure and engine noise are to blame.

The atmosphere on board affects the perception of smells and tastes

The atmosphere on board affects the perception of smells and tastes, photo WEB

“The taste of the food that we feel is the result of the harmonious work of the taste buds and the nasal mucosa. But at the height, the perception of sweet and salty things changes dramatically, and the sense of smell is dulled by the dryness of the air”, notes Russ Brown, director of catering services for American Airlines. Humidity on board the aircraft is less than 15% with a lower limit of the norm of 30%. Under these conditions, the nose mucosa is the first to suffer. Drying out, it ceases to perceive smells, and they are the main component of taste.

The sensitivity of the taste buds is blunted by about a third in flight. Studies that confirmed this fact were carried out on the order of Lufthansa at the German Institute of Building Physics. For the experiment, the scientists created conditions as close as possible to the conditions on board the aircraft - they lowered the pressure and humidity, and also reproduced the vibrations of the seats and the noise level. It is noteworthy that the latter also affects the ability to feel the taste. Having found this property, the experts tried to wrap it in their favor, and today British Airways offers passengers to listen to music with headphones while they eat. Thematic tracks not only drown out external noise, but also set up a meal.

The airline British Airways offers passengers to listen to music on headphones during a meal

The airline British Airways offers passengers to listen to music on headphones during a meal, photo WEB

It is interesting that during the flight only the perception of sweet and salty is inhibited, but the so-called fifth taste of “umami”, on the contrary, is enhanced. It is inherent in shiitake mushrooms, soy sauce, tomatoes, sardines, some elite cheeses. "Umami becomes brighter in flight, because tomato juice and the Bloody Mary cocktail are so popular on airplanes", said Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University.

To make air travel meals tolerable, chefs use spices that compensate for the temporary "failure" of receptors. Moreover, not salt and sugar are used in the course, but cardamom, lemongrass, curry and other seasonings, which acquire a more intense taste in flight conditions. However, salt and pepper in the “air” side dishes and meat are also abundant - on the ground no restaurant would serve such dishes.

Tomato juice has a distinct Umami taste.

Tomato juice has a distinct Umami taste, photo WEB

Sky Chefs, a catering company, reports that special recipes and techniques make it possible to cook exquisite food for passengers, but it is important to understand that it must survive transportation and further warming up on board. Safety rules require dishes to be cooked on the ground, so they get on the plane already chilled and put up in boxes. In the onboard kitchen, they are heated with hot air, which must also be taken into account in the cooking process. Sky Chefs management says that it delivers dishes to customers in the state of “another second - and it’s ready”, with the expectation of further short cooking.

But as for wines, most of them lose their flavor bouquet in flight, becoming acidic. Therefore, experts recommend to drink fruit wines on board, but with a low acid content, and do it better at the beginning of the flight.

According to the safety rules all dishes must be cooked on the ground

According to the safety rules all dishes must be cooked on the ground, photo WEB

In the fight for the appetizing of dishes airlines come with different weapons. For example, Charles Spence assures that food in plastic dishes is also not particularly tasty. Some airlines have listened to the advice of a psychologist and offer passengers lunch in the usual dishes and with the usual cutlery. Another solution to the task of saving the taste was made by British chef Heston Blumenthal - special nasal sprays that moisturize the mucous membranes will be on board of British Airways aircraft.

Victoria Romanova, Russia, Moscow