Inside a hunk of a jetliner partially buried in a cow pasture in Germany, scientists and chefs are attempting to solve the age-old question: What makes airplane food suck, scientifically? “Quantifying something as subjective as taste isn’t easy,” writes Daniel Michaels in the Wall Street Journal. “That’s why chefs from Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s LSG Sky Chefs, the world’s largest inflight catering company, came to one of the world’s biggest low-pressure chambers … In the A310’s worn blue seats, dozens of human guinea pigs this year have been ruminating over tomato juice, wine and airline entrées during fake flights, after first sampling the same items under normal conditions.”

So far the results are interesting: It seems that we perceive food to taste about 30 percent less salty and sweet under flight conditions. Bitter and sour flavors, and spices like cardamom and curry, stay more true. And that dry cabin air also messes with our sinuses and sense of smell, and thus our sense of taste. But the scientists do have good news for people stuck in coach: Because you’re crammed in like sardines, the humidity is about 10 percent higher than in roomy first class, keeping your working-class sense of smell functioning better.

Image source: Flickr member dan taylor under Creative Commons

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