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Sunday, 20 October 2019

Traveler's tips: Why does airline food suck?

Have you ever thought about why food often tastes bad on planes?

Nour Eldin Ebrahim, Monday 3 Apr 2017
The first class section of an Emirates A380 aircraft. (Reuters)
Views: 5526
Views: 5526

Flights are not usually the coolest part of a trip. But food on airplanes is probably the worst part ever, right?

It turns out that the problem is not necessarily with the food itself, but with your own nose and tongue.

This is due to the fact that there is not enough moisture in the air.

At above 30,000 feet, the air is very thin, and with the cabin atmosphere of pressurized cold air and less than 15 percent humidity, your taste buds just do not function as well.

Moisture profoundly affects the way you experience saltiness and sweetness.

Not only do your taste buds get affected, but your ability to smell is also compromised.

“[When flying], your ability to smell is like that of someone with the flu,” says Dr. Janice Lawandi, a chemist and author of the famous cooking blog 'The Kitchen.'

This drastically limits your ability to taste food.

Umami is the solution

A quick chemistry lesson:
Your taste buds can differentiate between five basic tastes: sweetness, bitterness, sourness, saltiness and what is called “umami.”

Umami is kind of hard to explain, but it has been described as the “savory” taste, or the brothy or meaty taste widely found in meat and fermented cheese. It is also found in tomatoes and some legumes.

Chemically, it is the taste of monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is the main reason why many people love ketchup, which is rich in MSG.

Umami is not affected by dry climates, so next time you are on a plane, search for glutamate-rich foods!

What to eat?

Always go for the tomatoes. Have you ever noticed that there is almost always tomato juice on planes, even though it is not a widely popular juice? Now you know why!

Seafood is also a good option, as it is rich in umami.

Bacon, fermented cheese, spinach, soy, and green tea are all glutamate-rich food and drinks.

Do not go for desserts or very salty food, and do not drink coffee if you are a coffee lover (unless you just need the caffeine dose).

Follow this advice, and hopefully next time you will have a little bit more of a “delicious” trip.

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