Meals on planes

By | Category: Travel news

I’m not a fan of airline food. I speak as an economy class passenger rather than someone who is more accustomed to the meals served in business or first class which, I am told are much better than are served in the back of a plane.

a salt beef roll

Consequently I have a habit of taking my own food. I have even been known to share this with the cabin crew, particularly on American Airlines where the food – this is going back more than ten years – seemed the same on every trip I ever made with them.

Aware that food can sometimes taste differently on land as opposed to being 35,000 feet in the air, Stansted airport has come up with a sandwich which, it claims tastes better at altitude. It is aimed at people like me who are either unwilling to pay for meals on flights or reject the taste of them and prefer to take their own.

In conjunction with Not Always Caviar – the food outlet – and based on scientific food research into the body’s reduced ability to perceive flavours when flying, the new sandwich will include Umami-rich ingredients. Umami, the fifth taste after sweet, sour, salty and bitter is the key, it seems, to making it taste better in the air.

Here’s the scientific logic as espoused by Professor Barry C Smith who had a hand in the development of the sandwich. He says, “Science shows that the combination of dry air and low-pressure during flights reduces our sensitivity to food aromas. Additionally, the sound of white noise at 80 decibels or above has an impact on the brain’s ability to perceive sweet, salt and sour from the tongue – reducing its intensity by about 10-15%. In an aircraft cabin you are subjected to white noise of around 89 decibels. This will greatly reduce the flavours we can taste whilst flying. “Foods rich in umami provide depth of flavour and boost other basic tastes like salt, sweet and sour. Umami is also immune to the effects of white noise on our perception of taste.” So now you know!

But there has to be more to it than the umami effect. A typical umami mixture would be mushrooms with tomato and cheese yet airlines have been serving up pasta dishes for years and I can’t say that I would award five stars for any I have eaten. No, I must be in the cooking as well which could be where Stansted and not Always caviar might be on to a winner.   

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