Mile high taste buds

I have had my fair share of bad airline food; think tough chicken on a dried piece of ciabatta on a US Airways domestic flight in First; and a few good ones; think a three course meal on Emirates, in Economy that too! (I hate US Airways, so I may be biased…). In todays world of nonexistent airline meals, any meal one gets is usually appreciated. But on the other hand, when one is flying on a flight which due to its length or class of service includes a meal, one expects a good one. In full honesty, I have generally found that when one does get a meal on a flight, it is better than what one used to get in the past. Even on United, I was in first on a recent short domestic flight, in First, and got an excellent chicken salad.

I read this great article on New York Times about how airlines are actually studying why food does not taste as good on flights. It is not just the quality of food that has given airline food a bad rap, but there is actually science that proves that our taste buds do not taste food as well at the elevation of a flight and the constant background noise on a plane. Maybe buying those overprices Bose noise reduction headphones will make the food taste better. The article explains that airlines like Lufthansa and Delta are now investing in making dishes that taste better in the ‘suppressed taste bud’ environment at 36,000 feet.

Coincidently, Ira Flatow, host of Science Friday on NPR, interviewed Barb Stuckey, author of Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good, just this past Friday. Other than talking about how someones ‘taste bud density’ effects how they taste the intensity of tastes, they also talked about how the altitude and noise on a plane too suppresses ones taste buds.

I hope all this focus on airline food will result in better food at 36,000 feet. One day maybe we will book flights on specific airlines just for the food. And if you are an regular reader of his blog, the miles and food…

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