How many times have you not liked or sent back the meals you received in an airplane? Me? Easily more than 5 times. How many times have you carried your own snack to the plane so you don’t have to make your tongue suffer through the weird tastes of the plane meals? No one can even judge you for doing that on an airplane because literally, everyone knows how ‘meh’ the taste of meals can be. Man, would Gordon Ramsay have a blast roasting the food quality!
One would definitely but naturally blame the cook for the bad taste but guess what? Interestingly enough, it is not the fault of the cook. It happens due to the altitude. Believe it or not, it is actually our bodies that change our ability to perceive taste. Now, before you get all offended, let us explain to you how and why this happens.
It is highly important to maintain the pressure inside the cabin. To do so the airlines must closely regulate the air inside. The air that we breathe inside the airplane is far drier than the one we breathe on the ground. If you get out of luck, the air might be drier than that of deserts. So, naturally in an environment like this, one starts to lose the powers of taste and smell. The cabin air is 15% drier than that of the ground air. Your nose gradually descends its power as the plane ascends to the sky. This also makes the passengers’ mouths go dry.
Although the pressure in the cabin is set to mimic the pressure on the ground level, it is still less than one would experience at a sea level. Naturally, the bodily fluids will move upwards and nasal cavities will start to swell. This messes with our taste buds and hence it can make the food taste bad. Lower temperature and air pressure, both make it difficult to detect odorants. In conclusion, since it becomes harder and harder to smell on an airplane, it becomes harder to taste.
It kind of seems weird that noise would make any such difference in tasting the food but believe me, it does. The noise inside the airplane can is produced due to the engines and wind is as loud as 85 decibels which is equivalent to city traffic. Researchers have found that loud noises hinder our appreciation of sweet flavors. On the flip side, researchers have found that while onboard, passengers appreciate something called ‘umami’. That is a real word, yes. It is found in tomatoes and other meaty foods.
Alright, so maybe not all of it is your fault. We can’t just blame the bad food solely on the cabin conditions. It might be possible that the food actually does taste bad. Preparing and serving food for a couple of hundreds of people above the sky is obviously not an easy task. Demand for such a large quantity of food sure will tie down the hands of the chef. It is possible that the taste might lose track here and there. After the food is prepared, it is stored and chilled until it is time to load it into the airplane and serve it to the passengers. Therefore, due to such long hours of the process of the food waiting around might also flatten our mood to eat anything on the plane as the food is cooked hours before it is served.
It is said that the airlines put 30% more salt and sweetness to the food than it already is because, by the time the food reaches the passengers, the tastes have already degraded down to blandness. So to balance it, they do so.
Most of the time, it is not the fault of the airlines. Sure, the food might taste a little ‘meh’ most of the time, but the environment is to be blamed and not the cook. Sure, the food might naturally taste bad because the cook did not do his/her job properly, but there is nothing much one can do other than file a complaint. But it will take you only so far because the cabin pressure, air, and noise are something that the airlines cannot control. They do control it, but if they were to set the temperatures to suit the taste of the food, then I am sure there might be problems much, much worse than having a good meal than plummeting to death. It is important that we become a little more lenient towards the staff of the airlines as it is not in their hands to control such decisions and we can only hope that one day we will be served food that is tastier and does not taste like a raw bread.