“The level of background noise affects both the intensity of flavour and the perceived crunchiness of foods, researchers have found”, says a headline I find in today’s BBC news-feed. This, the attached article claims “may go some way to explaining why airline food is notoriously bland – a phenomenon that drives airline catering companies to heavily season their foods.”
It is certainly a phenomenon that drives travelers nuts. As usual, the spice lies in the word “may”. So the fact that the Japanese-style meal I had on a flight between Amsterdam and Tokyo was really quite acceptable may have its cause in JAL over-seasoning their foods, but it may also be that they fly with silent planes. It may, on the other hand, be that the pasta-horror SAS tried to serve me once on an Copenhagen-Detroit trip, over-cooked on one side, cold on the other, and miles away from being heavily seasoned according to any style, was one of those deplorable exceptions from the rule because, “I’m sure airlines do their best,” as Andy Woods from Unilever’s laboratories and the University of Manchester is reported to have said to the BBC.
Do I have to believe that all those dozens of food-in-the-air experiences I had to endure before, between and after these two examples may have been such a complete waste because of the noise? I’m waiting for four complementary studies that prove that a fear of dropping plastic cutlery on an un-reachable dusty floor, the agony of preventing to splatter over-spiced food over one’s neighbor while cutting it with a blunt knife, the acrobatics of keeping wine, water and crumbled plastic wrappings together on a pleasantly vibrating stamp-sized table, and the experience of masticating with one’s elbows pressed tightly against one’s body suppress whatever tasting abilities we have left after being exposed to all that flavor-destroying racket.
Are we sensing a waste of sponsor money, that should have been put in more spices? I really can’t tell, but I testify here that, even with earplugs firmly inserted, most plane grub tastes awful (and we all know it).
As a researcher, Andy must travel quite a bit, and I just don’t believe him to be all that sure about the airline’s lofty intentions. Perhaps he travels business class (where there is less noise, no doubt), but still. If the airlines at least did something about the crunchiness…