So. Airplane food. It sure sucks, right? With its horrible taste and small portions? It’s just atrocious!
I’ll stop right there as the rest of my stand-up bit has now become completely and totally obsolete. Science has figured out the ages old question most famously posed by comedians: airplanes are just too blasted loud for food to taste good.
Researcher Andy Woods noticed airplanes weren’t the only place where food had to be heavily seasoned to get any flavor, and he wondered about a possible connection:
There’s a general opinion that aeroplane foods aren’t fantastic. I’m sure airlines do their best – and given that, we wondered if there are other reasons why the food would not be so good. One thought was perhaps the background noise has some impact. NASA gives their space explorers very strong-tasting foods, because for some reason thay can’t taste food that strongly – again, perhaps it’s the background noise. There was no previous research on this, so we went about seeing if the hunch was correct.
The test subjects were blindfolded and given headphones that were either completely silent or fairly noisy. They were then fed sweet foods and salty foods, and asked to rate how intense the flavors were and how much they liked those flavors. In the noisier environment, the test subjects found food less flavorful but actually found the food quite a bit crunchier than those eating in silence. Woods believes this is because the background noise distracts diners, which makes people’s brains unable to properly concentrate on the flavor of the food. Since crunchiness has a noise component to it as well, that might explain why people notice it more in noisier settings.
Obviously, the next move for science to make is to find out just what the deal is with those little bags of peanuts.