Finally, a scientific explanation for why you go right for the salty, savory tomato juice once you hit cruising altitude. Still no explanation for why you make fun of anyone ordering it at any other time, though. According to an article in the Cornell Chronicle, researchers isolated everyone’s favorite indescribably savory flavor — umami — and found that “auditory conditions in air travel might actually enhance this sought-after flavor.”
Related: What Is Umami (And Does It Exist?)
The reason behind your skewed taste buds? Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science at Cornell, says, “The multisensory properties of the environment where we consume our food can alter our perception of the foods we eat.” Processing the noise of jet engines, approximately 85 decibels, temporarily inhibits your ability to percieve umami and sweet flavors as you normally would. Cabin pressure can also affect how you taste. Your dulled senses demand stimulation, because they’re needy like that, so when the drink cart rattles on by, your brain requests a strong form of umami it knows to be on board: tomato juice.
This leaves only one question: If you wear noise-canceling headphones, do you still crave tomato juice?
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