Making a mess in the kitchen has become a hobby-slash-lifeline for some people, but there are times that we get sick of our own cooking. No matter how much time, energy and quality ingredients you invest in the dishes you make, you still don’t get the same level of satisfaction versus eating a meal prepared by someone else.[READ: We love cooking—but cooking burnouts happen, too]
Apparently, there’s a scientific reason why.
According to Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kaneman, the act of making your own food spoils the experience for you. “When you make your own sandwich, you anticipate its taste as you’re working on it. And when you think of a particular food for a while, you become less hungry for it later,” he wrote in New York Times’ Magazines fourth annual Food and Drink issue.
“Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, for example, found that imagining eating M&Ms makes you eat fewer of them. It’s a kind of specific satiation, just as most people find room for dessert when they couldn’t have another bite of their steak. The sandwich that another person prepares is not ‘preconsumed’ in the same way,” he added.
Even though you haven’t necessarily eaten any of the ingredients that go into the dish you’re making, being exposed to them has triggered the “preconsumption” of the dish.
In Filipino, there’s a term for the phenomenon: umay.
When you’re eating rich food—like crispy pata—the repeated stimuli the dish offers loses its luster after a few bites. It only makes sense that the same phenomenon applies when you cook the dish yourself. After conceptualizing, planning, collecting ingredients, cooking and plating up your meal, your brain is bound to get “bored” of it, for lack of a better term.
The same line of thinking goes for the other side of things.
When you eat at a restaurant or at your mom’s house, you’re not necessarily “exposed” to the process that goes into cooking the food you’re about to eat. Sure, the smells and sounds are there, but they end up as anticipatory factors instead of sensory spoilers for your meals.
This might also be the answer to why food tastes so good when it’s free or when you’re stealing it off someone else’s plate—you know, aside from the fact that you didn’t pay for it.