Anecdotally, we all know that some solidly selected dinner music can really improve a meal, but now there’s scientific research to back that up. Armed with this new knowledge, British Airways will begin offering music pairings for in-flight food.
Airlines have long battled against bland in-flight dining options. For all the jokes made at these meals’ expense, part of the problem isn’t with the food, it’s with the eaters: “Your ability to taste is reduced by 30 percent in the air,” British Airways’ chef Mark Tazzioli told the Daily Mail.
In effort to fight science with science, the airline has taken heed of work by Oxford professor Charles Spence, who claims his research shows music can make foods taste up to 10 percent more sweet or salty. (That doesn’t get us back to 100 percent, but it helps.) Different music can have different effects, meaning that pairing certain songs to specific foods, a technique known as—and this is true—“sonic seasoning,” can actually elevate the taste of a meal.
Thus, starting in November, British Airways will introduce a “Sound Bite” sound track to diners on long-haul flights. The 13-track playlist offers all sorts of suggestions. Who knew Lily Allen’s “Somewhere Only We Know” was the perfect fit for a filet of beef with a horseradish sauce, or that Madonna’s “Ray of Light” works well with lemon sponge cake? Supposedly, Allen’s piano-driven tune can enhance sweet and bitter flavors, while Madonna’s penchant for high tones makes her music more sweet specific. (Check out the entire playlist over at the Daily Mail.)
Of course, the whole thing is dependent on flyers’ willingness to heed the suggestions. People are often extremely picky about music. As one commenter stated in protest to the idea of listening to “You’re Beautiful” while eating dessert, “James Blunt should be [paired with] sleep.”
Regardless, the research could certainly have repercussions outside just airline food. Maybe it finally explains why that dinner party where I played Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music was such a bust!