One Genius Travel Hack

One GeniusTravel Hack

Take the plane picnic to new heights with the power of umami.


Getting out of town and into vacation mode? Nothing stands in your way—except for plane food. Time to get your priorities in line and pack a meal both delicious and civilized—no cruddy packets of snack crackers for you!

Here’s the thing, though: plane food isn’t necessarily terrible, it just tastes like it is. Airline companies make food in massive quantities to serve to travelers thousands of feet up—travelers who’ve left their normal sense of taste behind on the ground. Your taste buds and your sense of smell are all but gone when you’re suspended 30,000 feet in the air, for several reasons: it’s a combination of the lower air pressure, lack of humidity and all that background noise. Your perception of salt and sweet are the first to go.

Here’s the secret, and it’s a good one: your sense of umami, the so-called ‘fifth taste’, is unaffected by all of the flight’s machinations. Ever wonder why everyone is guzzling down tomato juice inflight when they would never order it on the ground? It’s because tomatoes are bursting with umami, which makes food taste more savory and mouth-filling.

So pack a plane picnic filled with umami rich food, and let yourself relax—who cares that domestic flights charge an arm and a leg for food you won’t be able to taste anyway?


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Umami-rich foods include tomatoes, seaweed, mushrooms, soy sauce, parmesan and cheddar cheese, olives, cured meats, miso paste, peanut butter, tahini and green tea. That’s quite a list to work with. Here are some of our favorite plane picnics:

– A baguette, well-buttered, layered with slices of prosciutto

– Salted nuts of your favorite variety—we love buttery marcona almonds—with dried fruit and excellent chocolate chips. Homemade trail mix FTW.

– Blend butter and miso paste for an addictive compound blend that tastes good on anything (we’re looking at you, French toast)—spread on nutty bread, and top with slices of juicy tomato.

– Put together a selection of cured meats and hard cheeses that will survive the wait until you’re in the air. Add olives, grapes, dried figs and your favorite crackers. Ask for a bottle of red wine when the drinks service comes around. Done and done.


Just remember the cardinal rules of plane food:

– No sharp implements (don’t let the TSA confiscate your prized cheese knives!)

– No smelly foods—odors travel and your seatmates will be sad

– Bring food that is safe at room temperature for stretches of several hours

– Don’t forget to pack a set of disposable knives, forks and spoons! This French Bull lunch box comes with flatware popped-in already:


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