Mentally, flying is not an issue for me. It’s the physical aspects of being hurled through the air at many miles per hour that I find upsetting. Even if you don’t experience sinus pressure or motion sickness, sitting in a loud plane can alter the way you perceive the world around you. In fact, it can change the way you taste things, which is honestly pretty unacceptable.
According to the New York Times, “our sensitivity to sweet and salty foods drops by about 30 per cent in the air, compared to when we’re on the ground.” Umami, however is more easily detected, which explains my sudden tomato juice and Dorito cravings during air travel.
It also explains why snacks don’t hit the same on a plane, but it gives us an opportunity to adapt, fight back and increase the umami content of our travel snacks.
I think you know where I’m going with this. If umami is the only thing you can really taste on a plane, then umami is the thing we should increase in our food. This is easily accomplished with a little monosodium glutamate.
You only need a little, so pack a couple teaspoons in a vial, tin, or baggy, and sprinkle it on the appropriate meals and snacks. (Do, however, be prepared to answer questions about the white crystals. I have found that these little salt tins raise the least amount of suspicion.)
Put MSG on your sad airline meal, shake it around in a bag of potato chips, or sprinkle it on creamy cheese wedges. You can even use it to enhance the flavour of fruit — try it on an apple, it has an effect very similar to Parmesan.