Weird Food News

Lufthansa testing high-altitude tastes to improve airline meals

There's bad food, and then there's airline food, barely edible foil-wrapped meals that command a category of terrible taste all to themselves.

Unsurprisingly, a couple of airlines out there are realizing that if they improve the quality of their meals a bit, especially in first class, they'll have a competitive advantage over other fliers providing service in the same airports.

One of those airlines is Lufthansa, which is working with caterer LSG skychefs to study how taste perceptions change at 35,000 feet. After several tests in a simulator that mimics pressure, turbulence and humidity conditions of flight, scientists have found that we lose our perception of salt and sugar during flight, while our sense of bitterness, sourness and spiciness remain relatively unaffected.

As a result of the tests, the airline is exploring the use of cardamom and curry in dishes, and switching up the alcohol program to overcome those affected taste buds. Lufthansa's sommelier is considering adding Amarone, for instance, because of its high sugar and alcohol content. He says it will taste lighter in the air, but not so light that it lacks flavor, like the other wines currently served on board.

Are gourmet airline meals next? Maybe so. But after all the gnarly things the FDA found in the LSG kitchen, I'm not sure anyone's going to want to eat the "improved" food, anyway.

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Laura Shunk was Westword's restaurant critic from 2010 to 2012; she's also been food editor at the Village Voice and a dining columnist in Beijing. Her toughest assignment had her drinking ten martinis and eating ten Caesar salads over the course of 48 hours. She still drinks martinis, but remains lukewarm on Caesar salads.
Contact: Laura Shunk