It’s no myth that air travel affects the body, from increasing emotional reactions to altering our tastes.
The best airlines take pains to ensure their on-board menus accommodate for this; for example the judges in our annual Cellars in the Sky competition inform us that whites with gentler acidity and reds with lower tannins work best at 35,000 feet.
But for passengers who won’t be availing of in-flight fine dining – or indeed any form of complementary dining – Stansted claims to be selling a sandwich best saved for enjoying at high altitude.
Ingredients are “umami-rich,” umami being a savoury taste now identified as occupying its own bracket alongside sweet, sour, salty and bitter.
The ‘Sky High Sandwich’ will be available at the Not Always Caviar cafe at the London airport, either as a Seafood Club with optional caviar sauce or a Salt Beef deli sandwich.
The seafood option (£9.95) contains smoked salmon, salmon tartare, shrimp, avocado, tomato, lemon and chilli flakes. The deli sandwich (£8.50) contains finely chopped salt beef mixed with mayonnaise and mustard, cheddar, gherkins and spinach.
Both will include a “special umami blend spice ingredient,” Stansted said.
The sandwich was created in collaboration with the University of London’s Barry Smith, a professor at the Centre for the Study of the Senses.
Smith explains: “Science shows that the combination of dry air and low-pressure during flights reduces our sensitivity to food aromas.
“Additionally, the sound of white noise at 80 decibels or above has an impact on the brain’s ability to perceive sweet, salt and sour from the tongue – reducing its intensity by about 10-15 per cent.
“In an aircraft cabin you are subjected to white noise of around 89 decibels. This will greatly reduce the flavours we can taste whilst flying.”
Therefore, he says, umami provides a welcome depth of flavour and can boost the other basic tastes.
Meanwhile a combination of umami-rich foods can create “synergistic umami” – an even more flavourful product. This apparently occurs in the pairing of tomato and seafood.