So now they’re saying that airline meals taste as bad as they do because at high altitudes people’s tastebuds go numb:
No matter what it is—fish, chicken, even pasta—every meal served in the air seems to taste undeniably worse than its on-the-ground counterpart. To get to the bottom of this dilemma, we consulted Grant Mickels, the executive chef for culinary development of Lufthansa’s LSG Sky Chefs—who had some surprising revelations. Namely: That the food’s not really the problem here.
“At 35,000 feet, the first thing that goes is your sense of taste,” explained Mickels. He explained that the quality of the food and its ingredients isn’t to blame, it’s the way you experience it. It’s even been tested: The Fraunhofer Institute, a research organization based in Germany, did a study on why a dish that would be delicious in a fine dining restaurant could be, as Mickels put it, “so dull in the air.” In a mock aircraft cabin, researchers tried out ingredients at both sea level and in a pressurized condition—and the differences in taste were startling.
The tests revealed that the cabin atmosphere—pressurized at 8,000 feet—combined with the cool, dry cabin air “makes your taste buds go numb, almost as if you had a cold,” explained Mickels.
Well, they can explain all they want, and research all the want, but none of it’s going to convince me. Although I haven’t actually eaten an official airline meal in many moons, I’ve certainly had plenty of them in the past, and they were uniformly abominable. What puts the lie to their research is that those nuts and pretzels they give out taste perfectly yummy, and that sandwich I got in the airport (the one with the chicken salad and cranberries, that cost about double what it would have cost had it been purchased anywhere else but another airport or Disneyland) tastes pretty darn good too.
So I’m not buying it. The research, that is, not the sandwich.