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Music Enhances Airplane Food. No, Really.

Scientists are now tackling that age-old question: What can we do to make airplane food taste good? Surprisingly, they actually have some advice to offer the hungry traveler according to an article in The Telegraph. While they can’t do anything about the freshness, or lack thereof, of airline food, researchers have found that listening to music rather than watching a movie, choosing wines based on the altitude of the vineyards (the higher, the better), and doing what you can to keep your nose from drying out may lead to a more enjoyable in-flight dining experience.

“The lower cabin pressure, dry cabin air and loud engine noise all contribute to our inability to taste and smell food and drink,” according to Professor Charles Spence, author of Gastrophysics: The New Science of Eating. In fact, the professor noted that a pair of noise-cancelling headphones could actually be one of the simplest ways to make food and drink taste better at altitude. He also pointed to ground-based research that shows merely not watching the screen in front of you can lead you to enjoying your food a little more while, at the same time, finding yourself satisfied with less of it.

Spence’s research with the chefs at the Fat Duck Restaurant has shown that listening to soundscapes that contain lots of tinkling, high-pitched notes can actually accentuate our perception of sweetness by 10 percent. This research also found that low-pitched noises accentuate bitterness by the same amount. The effects weren’t huge, according to the professor, but they were large enough to make a potential difference in taste.

Finally, to get even more flavor out of your in-flight meal, you might consider finding a way to moisturize your dry nasal passages. This will improve your sense of smell, which is a large part of how we taste food. Of course, as the article points out, this may not be a desirable choice given the other smells that a crowded airplane cabin might be producing.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

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