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VERBATIM Eating at high altitude

What, according to the airline catering experts, are the problems of entertaining at 10,000 metres? First is the question of taste buds. "We have identified 13 different effects on the palate in a pressurised cabin. Together, these effects reduce the palate's powers by 40 per cent," says Andrew Sparrow, British Airways' wine and beverage development executive. To make up for this, BA adds sugar to its special Piper Heidsieck champagne blend. Bill Kurtz, of Caterair International in Baltimore, USA, agrees that the palate "is not so sensitive in the air"; he adds spices to his his dishes "to slightly enhance flavours".

Henri Alcade, of the Chicago caterers Flying Food Fare, points out that because of dehydration "food is digested in a different way [in the air than it is] on earth". The solution is meals with a high moisture content and plenty of carbohydrates, which are quick to digest. "They don't make you feel full and heavy," says Cathay Pacific's regional catering manager for Europe, Anthony J Edwards.

Reheating meals causes a variety of problems. Gert Kullmann, head of in-flight services for Lufthansa, advises discretion with some vegetables, "such as peas, which may cause flatulence when reheated". Todd Clay of Delta Air Lines adds that, after reheating, cabbage and brussels sprouts "become unattractive and strong-smelling". Fried foods go soft and flabby; vegetables with a high water content separate any sauces that are served with them. During reheating, sauces that are too thin slide off entrees, and those that are too thick dry out.

Saudi Airlines designed a special meal for its 7,000 blind passengers per year, with the help of organisations for the blind. The menu, printed in braille (Arabic and English), gives the position of foods on the tray. (Reprinted from Colors magazine)


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