Why Germans Love Tomato Juice

Via Marginal Revolution, I discover something peculiar about flights and blasé about Germans:

Bei dem im Flugzeug herrschenden niedrigen Luftdruck steigt die sogenannte Geruchs- und Geschmacksschwelle - Kräuter, Gewürze, Salz und Zucker müssen höher dosiert werden, um wahrgenommen zu werden. Man rieche die Speisen und Getränke "als hätte man einen Schnupfen", sagte Burdack-Freitag der Zeitung. Salz werde 20 bis 30 Prozent, Zucker 15 bis 20 Prozent weniger intensiv geschmeckt.

My literalish translation:

With the low air pressure prevalent in an airplane, the so-called smell and taste threshold rises--herbs, spices, salt and sugar must be given in higher doses in order to be discerned. One smells the meals and drinks "as if one had a cold," said Burdack-Freitung to the newspaper. Salt was tasted 20 to 30 percent less acutely, and sugar 15 to 20 percent less.

This Lufthansa-backed study is offered as explanation for the inordinate fondness of Germans to order tomato juice on a flight (more popular than beer, according the article). As we all know, when low air pressure conspires to make your taste buds weak, the best way to kick it up a notch is to order tomato juice.

Two thoughts:

  • Like some people, I have an airplane drink, which is something you only order (or drink mostly) on flights. Mine happens to be apple juice, because apfelsaft was the simplest drink order I had confidence saying on my first flight to Germany--since then I've always gotten at least one glass per flight anywhere.  Apple juice is also the drink I associate most strongly with Germany.
  • One of my German colleagues in Schwerin had cousins in Texas and spent a lot of time there growing up. He scoffed the German dislike for spice and nearly killed me a few times because I was one of the few with whom he could share his love for hot sauce.