“At high altitudes, only umami — the pleasant, savory “fifth” taste beloved by Japanese chefs — is enhanced for reasons that are not entirely clear. So Bloody Marys, which contain the umami-rich tomato and Worcestershire sauce, taste far better in the sky than on the ground. It’s the most consumed cocktail on passenger flights, airlines say.
Speculating about the reason for the umami appetite, Mr. Spence theorized that noise on the plane, even at 80-85 decibels (“quieter than in a New York restaurant”), raises an ancestral fear.
When faced with predators or during stressful situations, our ancestors may have turned to umami, which prompts dollops of saliva, “in order to get the energy to fight or flight,” he said. (British Airways overhauled its menu in 2013 to incorporate more umami-rich foods.)
In addition to white noise, low humidity and low pressure affect the way and the order in which molecules travel to our senses, said Peter Barham of the University of Bristol, another expert on the science of taste. At 30,000 feet, cabin air is drier than the air in most deserts. That impairs our sense of smell, from which most of our taste is derived.”
Read the full article here: Airlines Aim to Trick Your Taste Buds at 30,000 Feet
(Article originally published March 1, 2017 on nytimes.com)
LA Times – Palate pleasers at 30,000 feet
The Boston Globe – Experts share their recipes for good food — and wine — at altitude
The Economist – What to drink at 30,000 feet
Runwaygirlnetwork.com – It’s all about umami for these airline specialty beverages