What’s the deal with…Aeroplane Food?August 12, 2015
Air Travel is a tricky business. On the one hand, you’re (hopefully) head out on an adventure, or returning home after a journey abroad.There’s a sense of excitement, or of homecoming, that is certainly worth the discomfort of 12 hours in a flying tube. On the other hand, the cramped interior of an Airbus 380 sure can be testing. For the foodies in the office here, getting through the meals on a flight is often the part of the trip we’re dreading.
Tricky elbow room, unidentifiable meat and a lack of freshness are all classic hallmarks of the often underwhelming fare served up to us mid-air. It can sometimes seem like the most promising of in flight menus in reality turns out to be inedible gunk. But did you know that there may be more science behind this than you realised?
Although it seems obvious that there would be some limitations to the feasts you can cook up on a plane (no open flames or microwave for example), there are also changes that happen to our taste buds 30 000 feet you may not have been aware of. Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, says that a lack of humidity, lower air pressure and background noise may all attribute to aeroplane food tasting lacklustre.
At 12% humidity (drier than most deserts), our sense of smell starts to suffer. I’m sure we’ve all had the sensation of smelling Mum’s dinner as you walked into the house after school – bliss! On the other hand, how dull is food when you’ve got a blocked nose? Smell informs a lot of our experience of food, and when we can’t smell it, there’s something missing.
The combination of this humidity and lower air pressure can also reduce the sensitivity of our taste buds by up to 30%! Sweet and salty flavours seem to be affected by this, although spicy and sour flavours remain unaffected. Perhaps this is the reason why so many of us in the office prefer the Asian cuisine offered by airlines like Japan Airlines and Korean Air. Interestingly, the so called ‘fith taste’, umami is also unaffected by air travel. Umami is the savoury flavour found in food like seaweed, tomatoes, soy sauce and mushrooms – all good inclusions for an in-flight meal!
We put our heads together in the office and came up with our dream in-flight meal, with beautiful ingredients from the HelloFresh test cook kitchen.
For mains, a chicken breast kept moist with a dukkah crust on a bed of rice stir fried with capsicum, snow peas and of course soy sauce (gotta have that umami!). Crispy papadums with creamy hummus are served up as a side, while coconut water keeps you hydrated on a dry flight. Desert is a tangy natural yoghurt and craisins (sourness will be unaffected mid-air, remember?) and some fresh banana. What you think?
On a delicious note, check out the supper our Logistics Genius Gus received on a recent business class Qantas flight! If veal carpaccio from Consulting Chef Neil Perry is on the menu, we reckon the cramped legs and dry skin might not be so bad after all….