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Why do some foods taste better when made by someone else?

Why do my mother’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches taste better than mine? Why can’t I ever duplicate her simple oil and vinegar salad dressing?

These are simple “recipes”, with only a couple ingredients, and I’ve watched her making these and other things, so I know what she uses. Her measurements may not be exact, but even if I use the same brands they still don’t taste the same.

As a general interest topic, I’d like to know, does anyone else feel the same way and why do some foods taste better when made by someone else?

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  1. i almost never like my own salads - no idea why bc if I got them at a restaurant, I'd love it, but when I make it at home, it just never tastes great

    same goes for tuna fish - i can always taste the can and i probably prohibit myself from adding as much mayo as a deli would

    and definitely a lot of my mom's food tastes much better when she makes it - less effort on my part makes it easier to enjoy her feasts!

    3 Replies
    1. re: jpmcd

      This begets another question: Why does beer taste better and colder in a bar than at home?

      1. re: Oneiron

        He he - how true. For the most part, I don't like my own cooking (I get rave reviews on most things) however my son agrees that I even make better cold cereal than he does, so go figa . .

      2. re: jpmcd

        I have to agree with salads. (and not my mother's. Her food was the reason I learned how to cook - self preservation!). Salads at friends' homes, restaurants etc. always taste better to me for some reason!

      3. There's a reason why there is something known as Comfort Food.....foods made with love from Mom back in more simple times in our lives triggers peace and a sense of calmness......memories and good thoughts.....make foods taste better.

        1. it's probably a psychological thing...nostalgia maybe?

          Like I'm kind of vain, so when someone else makes something I usually make, I tend to think, "hmm...mines better"

          1. I'm more critical when I made it.

            1. I'm a little vain too when it comes to my "specialties". But I've always wondered about the pb&j...I've been making them for thirty years and still if my mother makes one, I'll be darned, it tastes different!

              fourunder must be right, it's the love factor that imparts some indescribable nuance to make food taste better.

              I wonder if someone feels the same about something I make?

              1. Great question! I am a professional chef and I could never duplicate even the simplest dishes my mother makes. I've made baked chicken a million times but my moms is better. Her meatballs taste better than mine as well. Its got to be the love cause I don't think she is that great of a cook!

                1. seriously. i like my mother's tuna sandwiches better than mine. and we use the same ingredients!
                  also - I never seem to love most soups I make - I do a mean potato chowder, and a good beef veg, but I cannot make a chicken soup i'm happy with! But give me a big bowl of restaurant soup and I'm a happy camper!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jujuthomas

                    Maybe your broth tastes just like chicken, and in the end, you don't really like just chicken. You like whatever it is that you've eaten all your life? I have the same problem with not loving my chicken soup. I wonder if it needs an extra something, like the tin flavor from the can, or some msg?

                  2. I don't analyze the foods that other people prepare - I just eat them. I don't worry if it is yummy enough to be able to pawn off left-overs on anyone, I don't wonder if I should have purchased a new batch of bay leaves, I don't ponder if I ought to only use never-frozen chicken and would it then taste better, etc.

                    In other words, it represents the efforts of someone else to please, and I am pleased.

                    1. I think it has to do with the feeling of someone taking care of you.I love when someone ..esp mom..makes something for me .Plus I only like breakfast when someone makes it for me.I will make breakfast for my bunch but I will hardly eat it.

                      1. It's definitely the love/appreciation factor in my case. My husband and I share dinner duties and often make the exact same meals. I think it tastes better when he makes it. Funnily enough, he says the same about the meals I make :)

                        1. When I read the OP I immediately thought, "Salad" (as in green tossed salad). How fascinating that others have said that too.

                          1. I think it is great when someone makes food for me, and that certainly adds to the enjoyment. But on a more technical level, I wonder if the process of making the food takes the edge off of our enjoyment. Much of taste is smell, so even if you aren't tasting something as you are making it (ie pb&J), you smell the peanut butter and the jelly, not to mention the bread. Our taste for those items has then been slightly desensitized, so that the first bite (often "the best") just won't have the same punch - and our decision that "it doesn't taste as good."

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                              That has been a theory of mine too KaimukiMan, along with the "love factor", that somehow when we cook food, the food "pheromones" have already satisfied our craving. Too weird.

                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                I agree with you, KaimukiMan. If you are exposed to the ingredients which you are using to make the food, they do not have the same impact on you as when you just sit down to eat them. It's like when you walk into a house where cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg have been steeping in apple cider. At first, the aroma hits you like a train. But if you stay in the house awhile, you barely notice the scent. Preparing the food anesthetizes you to the ingredients' full impact because you have been exposed to the ingredients for so long.

                                Of course, in other instances, the cook who makes something better than I do, is doing something slightly different in the course of the preparation of the food--probably something very subtle, but which makes a huge difference in the end result.

                              2. I agree with most others in the love factor, but also being served is so nice in and of itself.

                                I've tried to replicate my husband's chicken or turkey salads, and it doesn't work--ever.

                                Maybe it's also replicating rather than making it your own that comes into play (competition and stress can really affect the tastebuds)

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Caralien

                                  I understand (but can't explain) why anything but the love factor makes the most basic of foods taste better. But on the flip side, my grandmother (Nanny) made oatmeal cookies with M&Ms in them. They were delicious and we kids scarfed them down every holiday when she baked them. But given Nanny's self-proclaimed Yankee sensibilities, she had a tendency to cook things "well done." Since my grandmother passed almost 25 years ago, I've become the oatmeal M&M baker in my family. The first time one of my uncles had my cookies, he said: "These are just like Ma's--except you didn't burn them!"
                                  ;)

                                  1. re: kattyeyes

                                    Was that the style for oatmeal cookies back then? I remember eating many many of the burnt types also (ours were oatmeal raisin), but don't burn them myself.

                                    1. re: Caralien

                                      HA HA HA...it may well have been. My grandmother never let me lick the beaters, either. I guess next time we burn something (accidentally, of course), we can just say we were bakin' it old school. ;)

                                2. My grandpa always made Christmas cookies. I tried all his recipes, but they tasted completely different-kind of sad.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: jenniegirl

                                    i know that feeling - we've never been able to replicate my grandmother's cookies even tho we have the recipes. my mother thinks she used lard, but i'm thinking there's something she left out of the recipe. we'll never know, but even 35 years later I still miss those cookies.

                                  2. My SO says he likes my tea because it's made with 'love'... of course I'm sure it's because of the sugar! I think things taste better based on environmental/psychological things that have been mentioned by other posters- for example you're on holiday in a restaurant, or you're sitting on the patio of a pub with a cold beer on a hot day after work, or someone you love has made your favourite dish... all of these could make something taste better!

                                    1. They use more oil than you do (dressing) I guarantee it.

                                      Mother's cooking no matter HOW BAD others think it is - you will always have something that is pleasurable to eat if only for the memories.

                                      Who does not like to be cooked for? If you had to slice and dice all day it may not be as thrilling to sit down to it later.