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The New In-Flight Menu Designed to Calm Nerves

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The trick to overcoming a fear of flying could be as simple as eating a well-calibrated set of snacks.

That’s the uplifting concept behind the in-flight meal designed by Oxford University professor Charles Spence on behalf of Monarch, a low-cost airline based in the UK. Using a mix of herbal remedies and color psychology, the Mood Food Box enlists the aid of tea, ice cream, and mochi to set the right tone for traveling.

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The multicourse meal was born out of Monarch’s research into the UK’s air travel habits, which found that that 52 percent of Britons consider the airport to be the most stressful part of planning a vacation.

Airports are Stressful—Let Us Help You With That
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Airports are Stressful—Let Us Help You With That

The first course, echinacea and licorice ice cream, is meant to stave off a cold. It’s also black, which is meant to put the passenger’s mind at ease. According to Spence, “The black color is certainly counter-intuitive—most passengers think of white or pale colors with ice cream. This may also help to distract passengers from their chaotic journey whilst also surprising them and playing into childlike nostalgia.”

Right at takeoff, fliers receive mochi rice cakes made with green tea (the antioxidants in which is supposed to fight jet lag) and lavender, known for its ability to induce rest and relaxation. The third course of the Mood Food menu is an herbal tea brewed from chamomile, fennel, and kelp, designed to the fight bloating and digestion that affects 18 percent of passengers.

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For the last leg of the flight, the meal is all about umami, the uniquely savory taste profile that has the ability to cut through the dulling of tastebuds that comes with flying at 35,000 feet or so. Before passengers disembark, the final course is a nut bar that’s been coated in mushroom and tomato powder, both rich in umami.

Understanding Umami
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Understanding Umami

“Reduced air pressure, dry cabin air, and engine noise all inhibit taste perception,” says Spence, “but umami is the only one of the basic tastes that manages to cut through these barriers, which is why so many passengers order a tomato juice or Bloody Mary on-board.” According to related research from Spence, the 80-or-so decibels of background noise on a plane inhibit our perceptions of every flavor except umami, which become more intense.

For those flying Monarch, the Mood Food box is being served on a trial basis as of this summer. For the rest, use Spence’s guidelines as a roadmap to your own umami-heavy in-flight menu. And by the way, ask for the Bloody Mary mix instead of the tomato juice–it tastes miles better.

Do you have any snack tips for flying? Tell us in the comments!

Tags: airline food, in-flight meal, tomato juice