formerly "The View From Up Here"

Formerly titled "The View From Up Here" this column began in the Liberty Gazette June 26, 2007.

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Thursday, May 7, 2015

March 24, 2015 Olives, airplanes, and your fifth sense, Taste

The Liberty Gazette
March 24, 2015
Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely

Linda: While hospital food is commonly despised, it has nothing on the reputation of airline food, which has not only been reduced in meal size, but quality as well. Keeping ticket costs down while keeping stock prices up continues to challenge financial wizards who take their sharpened pencils to task to increase airline profits. Of course, there’s that pesky retirement package pilots and other employees have worked for years to earn; now there’s another area that could be reduced or even eliminated. And then there’s the feeding of all you hungry seat-fillers, which has proved to be such a burden that bean counting has been overtaken by olive counting for one airline, and peanuts for another. A few decades ago American Airlines removed one olive out of each salad they served and cheered at the bottom line, an annual savings of $40,000. Don’t scoff, that’s nearly twice what a first-year regional airline pilot makes these days.

Not all changes made to the food served at 40,000 feet are for the almighty dollar. Some are for safety, and some are simply to make you, the passenger, like them better. To reduce the risk of both pilots being stricken with food poisoning, the captain and first officer of any flight do not eat the same meals. If one type of pre-packaged meal is contaminated it is unlikely the other is also.

Mike: But are airline meals really that bad, or could it be our perceptions are affected by air pressure? Have you ever wondered why the popularity of the Bloody Mary in flight? Turns out, says a German physics research institute hired by Lufthansa, that our sensory perceptions are affected by altitude and humidity – and also by noise. End result is that we add salt to foods that should taste salty, and more sugar for treats that should be sweet, because those taste perceptions are reduced at altitude. Our receptors for sour and bitter don’t seem to be affected, but did you know there is a fifth taste?

Look for an increase in the use of spinach, mushrooms, and soy sauce in airline food, and don’t be surprised if you crave tomato juice, because the flight you take will enhance your taste of umami, an amino acid, L-glutamate, found in those foods.

Michel Lotito was not too finicky about pleasing his taste buds in the air or on the ground. God rest his soul, the man passed a few years ago, but he still holds the record for the largest airplane eaten, as well as the only airplane eaten. Lotito cut up, chewed, and swallowed such non-food items as light bulbs, razor blades, and glass bottles, eventually grinding his teeth to little stumps. He spent two years eating a Cessna 150. They say he used a sledgehammer, acetylene torch, and bottle cutter to make those tasty morsels bite-sized, but that he did bite most of the glass parts directly off the plane, and even ate the leather seats and the tires. The Frenchman’s bizarre eating made him an "entertainer" of sorts, earning the title Monsieur Mangetout, translated, "Mister Eats All".

Linda: I wonder if he added olives to that.

www.ElyAirLines.blogspot.com

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