Is this One Trick the Key to Tasty Airplane Food?

I was just reading the November issue of Gourmet magazine and came across a piece about airplane food; we all know that plane food is borderline intolerable but it would seem that those wonderful science types may have found a way to improve the whole experience.

Apparently music affects the way we taste things, and considering we lose about 30% of our ability to taste properly at 35,000ft it sounds like a pretty interesting theory. One that they are calling “Sonic Seasoning” and it basically suggests that certain songs can increase the sweet or salty sensation by up to 10% and it would seem that British Airways are going to be the first to test out this crazy theory on their planes by making a special playlist available that you can listen to while you eat,

The 13-track Sound Bite playlist will be available on the ‘Rock and Pop’ audio channel on long-haul flights from November, with music carefully selected to go with each menu item.

Highlights include Paolo Nutini with your smoked salmon (Scottish artists were found to enhance the provenance of Scottish foods) and Placido Domingo’s rendition of Nessun Dorma, which should bring out the bittersweet notes in your coffee.

Charles Spence, the professor from Oxford University who has been working on understanding and developing this “sonic seasoning” idea claims:

You can prime the brain for sweetness by playing a high pitched sound. Tempos and instruments do seem to matter. Simply by changing the environment it can have a big impact on flavour…In a way it’s all in our head, but then so is taste. Perhaps you could thing about reducing the sugar in food by changing the music in the background.

This whole idea doesn’t just mean that there could be a way to experience out airborne dining experience, it also could help people eat less sugar and salt by tricking the brain into eating something more salty or sweet than it actually is and thus reducing the cravings…

It’s not just about being on a plane or eating less sugar, these days people do not eat properly – and I’m not talking about what they are eating, I mean how they are eating. With today’s world being so fast paced and everything needing to be immediate people are just not eating properly, everything is on the go and it doesn’t give our bodies the chance to properly digest the food we are eating – it is part of the reason why when you go out for a special meal it tastes so much better because you take the time to sit and enjoy the experience. Too many people watch TV while they eat or read or distract themselves in some way and maybe this music theory will help people to concentrate more on what and how they are eating.

Now I am not sure I still completely buy this whole thing but according to an article published in Britain’s The Daily Telegraph

Prof Spence first carried out experiments into how sound could alter food at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant in Bray in 2011. He discovered that diners believed cinder toffee tasted sweeter when listening to ‘sweet’ sounds and more bitter when listening to ‘bitter’ sounds.

Low-pitched notes played by brass instruments are associated with the bitter taste of caffeine, while high-pitched notes played by the piano are associated with the taste of sucrose. So they can be used to stimulate the sensation of sweet and bitter.

Apparently it even changes the way you experience wine! Certain songs – like a good cheese – supposedly pair better with certain types of wines

A Cabernet Sauvignon should be paired with “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who to bring out its depth while a Chardonnay will slide down more easily accompanied by “Atomic” by Blondie. A Merlot really needs The Dock of the Bay”—Otis Redding

Although I think that I may need to try this for myself, without telling them I might have my friends round to eat and see how they experience different foods, see if there is something to this and if you end up fly British Airways any time soon, give the playlist a go and let me know if you felt like it worked.

The Daily Telegraph | High Life

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