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One of the OSP Team ‘bravely’ puts the fifth taste flight theory to the test.

Why ‘umami’ is the magic in-flight flavour

At 35,000 feet the first thing that goes is your sense of taste.

As the OSP crew embarks on the latest round of long haul flights, that age old question comes to mind once more: just why does airplane food taste so bad? The answer? The cabin atmosphere!

Pressurized at 8,000 feet, the cool, dry cabin air effectively makes your taste buds go numb and your perception of saltiness and sweetness drops by around 30 per cent.

Decreased humidity in the cabin dries out your nose and dulls your odour receptors, making food ‘taste’ twice as bland. Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal hoped to counter this problem by distributing nasal spray to first class passengers to clear their sinuses before they ate. Apparently it didn’t catch on!

However, all is not lost. Umami, the so-called fifth taste — imparted by foods such as sardines, seaweed, tomatoes and soy sauce — does not appear to be affected.

Perhaps that’s the reason behind the odd, but nevertheless undisputed, popularity of the in-flight Bloody Mary…