German scientists have figured out why tomato juice tastes better aboard an airplane than on the ground (and coffee tastes worse). Low atmospheric pressure dampens the experience of sweet and salty tastes whereas sour comes through unchanged and bitter is slightly intensified, says flavor chemist Andrea Burdack-Freitag of the Frauenhofer Institute for Building Physics in Holzkirchen.
She and her colleagues asked 30 taste testers to rate their perceptions of different foods and wine while sitting in a partial Airbus A310 in a chamber with adjustable pressure. At ground pressures, tasters perceived tomato juice as musty, but at a low pressure typical in flight they found it fruitier, with cool notes. The complex aromas picked up by the nose that give coffee its flavor were barely perceived at low pressure, unmasking caffeine's bitterness, Burdack-Freitag says. Lufthansa's catering arm, which sponsored the study, wants to use the data to improve its menus.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Food and Flying
An interesting tidbit from the Random Samples section of the 19 Feb. issue of Science Magazine: