Admit it: you’ve ordered ginger ale or tomato juice on an airplane. Every single person who has ever flown has at least once. (Don’t fact check that).
We even have it on good authority that Orville Wright enjoyed a can of ginger ale on his first flight in Kitty Hawk. (Definitely don’t fact check that).
Ok we might exaggerate a bit, but there really is a strange correlation between flying and choosing one of those beverages. And it’s not just our imagination. Virgin America’s manager of “inflight guest experience” Rob Gallagher verified to Chow Hound that the prevalence of ginger ale in the sky is real: "Fliers really do seek out ginger ale as an in-flight beverage.” A Time.com article reported that tomato juice as nearly as popular as beer (the top seller) on planes.
But why are these drinks such favorites, even among those who don’t normally order them on the ground? What is it about soaring through the sky at 30,000 feet that makes a ginger ale and tomato juice sound so. damn. appealing?
Time.com cites a study showing that loud noises, like, say, the kind an airplane might generate, dull the senses and make a beverage as salty as tomato juice more flavorful and enjoyable. Perhaps this also finally explains why people go absolutely crazy for tiny packets of peanuts.
When it comes to ginger ale, the semi-obvious answer is that it’s used to soothe upset stomachs, and therefore many passengers who get nausea during flights may instinctively turn to it for relief. That’s pretty much the result one Reddit thread came to when this very subject got hashed out. But as Foodbeast reports this week, it turns out that may be the wrong answer. Instead maybe everything we know about ginger ale as a stomach-soother is a lie.
According to Sherry Ross, M.D., from Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California “It’s not the ginger providing the relief…You’re buying into the power of suggestion. We’ve learned from our mothers and grandmothers, who brought us ginger ale and chicken-noodle soup when we were sick as kids, that ginger ale works…Those types of foods have powerful messaging to our brains and that alone makes us feel better.”
So the truth, it would appear, is that the mighty ginger ale is simply a fizzy placebo that makes us feel a little better about careening through the sky in a steel bird with only a seatbelt for protection.
Come to think of it, we’ll take ours with a few shots of vodka.
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