Moment of silence for whatever generation comes after Z, because one day they will hear our old retro jokes about bad airline food and have no idea what we're talking about. While many airlines lately have been making strides toward better dining experience, Monarch just pulled ahead of the pack with this new in-flight meal to reduce stress, boost energy levels, and even protect your immune system. If that wasn't enough to pique your interest, then also consider that it's so Instagrammable that it might be worth taking a flight somewhere for the social media opp alone.
Dubbed the "Monarch Mood Food Box," the contents were chosen based on research by Oxford professor and food psychologist Charles Spence and selected by top chef Jozef Youssef of Kitchen Theory to "get travelers in the holiday mood, enhance happiness, relaxation and wellbeing."
The box isn't unique just for its contents; even the timing of the contents' distribution plays into the psychology and wellbeing of the traveler. Before the plane disembarks, travelers indulge in echinacea and licorice ice cream, meant to strengthen immunity. At takeoff, travelers are offered the green tea and lavender mochi rice cake to promote relaxation on the flight. Thirty minutes after takeoff, they're offered Monarch's unique herbal tea blend of chamomile, fennel seed, and kelp, which is meant to counteract potential digestive issues on the flight, as well as a seaweed biscuit with relaxing umami flavors. Just before the plane lands, travelers will enjoy a caramelized nut bar to "re-energize and awake the senses" before they go on about their travels.
The details behind each selection make it all the more fascinating. The echinacea and licorice ice cream, for instance, is an unexpectedly matte black color — no accident, according to Professor Spence. “The black color is certainly counter-intuitive — most passengers think of white or pale colors with the ice cream. This may also help to distracts passengers from their chaotic journey whilst also surprising them and playing into childlike nostalgia," he shared in a press release on Monarch's blog.
The umami flavor incorporated into two of the selections was also quite intentional, specifically given not just the stress of traveling, but the nature of it. “Reduced air pressure, dry cabin air, and engine noise all inhibit taste perception, but umami is the only one of the basic tastes that manages to cut through these barriers, which is why so many passengers order a tomato juice or Bloody Mary on-board," explained Spence. "Using umami tastes alongside our other flavor combinations will be comforting and satisfying for passengers.”
The Monarch Mood Food Box launched on Monday, Aug. 21, and is currently available on flights from Luton to Naples, Gibraltar, and Malaga. Here's hoping that this kind of attention to customers' needs inspires other airlines to follow suit — travel is stressful enough on its own without wondering what is in your mystery lasagna and lamenting when you're in the last row and they've somehow run out of bread rolls (never forgive; never forget).