Literally millions of meals are served on airplanes daily. Can you imagine what a nightmare that is for the chefs? And although we would like them to consider taste as a factor, their top concern must be food safety, says Fritz Gross, director of culinary excellence at LSG Sky Chef’s Asia Pacific, serving airlines including United and British Airways.
The fundamental formula of airline food is simple cook, chill, reheat. Add to that the serving problems, such as when the crew turns on the ovens, then turbulence happens. Meals may be forced to sit in the ovens for too long and dry out. So you need something that simmers, and can be reheated over and over and that would be stew. Per gross, if it is done right, the vegetables can even retain their texture. Fried rice and a good fatty fish also retain their moisture well and stand up to reheating.
Pasta, on the other hand, is more problematic. The ratio of pasta and sauce needs to be in balance so the noodles are not too wet or dry. And certain things like deep-fried items and chicken breast do not reheat well in the small, cramped casserole dishes.
Add to this the fact that your olfactory senses are compromised on an airplane. According to an article in Independent Traveler, researchers are now offering a new explanation for why that rubbery chicken on your transatlantic flight is so lousy: engine noise.
A recent study conducted by Unilever and the University of Manchester shows that the more background noise you hear while you’re eating, the less able you are to distinguish salty or sweet flavors. In the study, participants were blindfolded and asked to eat various foods while listening to different levels of white noise (or no noise at all). Participants who heard higher volumes of noise noticed less intense sweet and salty flavors, and were more sensitive to how crunchy their food was. So in the air, the constant noisy whine of the plane’s engines could make your dinner significantly less palatable.
So what’s the lesson to be learned here? Wear noise-canceling headphones, and always order the stew.
There’s still time to hop aboard Drifter Sister’s train journey through Canada’s Rocky Mountains. Check it out on driftersister.com.