Speed Reads


Bloody Marys, other umami-rich food and beverages might taste better in midair


Bloody Marys could possibly hold the title as the only appetizing item on an airplane, if researchers in London are correct about certain flavors being enhanced and diminished during specific conditions — such as being thousands of feet in the air, in close proximity to loud engines.

Barry Smith, founder of the Center for the Study of the Senses at the University of London, and his colleagues believe that the tomato-based drink is heavy on the umami (a flavor, the Los Angeles Times reports, that often goes hand in hand with meats, cheese, and vegetables), and thus tastes better in the air than most other items. Researchers have thought for a very long time now that loud noises interfere with the ability to taste the flavor of food, which is why airline meals often don't taste that great, Smith and his team report in the journal Flavour. It's possible that umami is not affected by noise or low air pressure, making Bloody Marys a popular onboard choice.

In Flavour, Smith and his collaborators say that they would like to see a scientific study conducted that gives test subjects foods rich in umami while in different situations, including on an airplane, listening to noise-canceling headphones. They're hoping that after collecting the data, the umami question will finally be answered once and for all.