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Science explains why your husband prefers his mom's cooking over yours


June 16, 2015

I grew up in the kitchen watching my mom cook. I loved helping her stir, sauté, simmer and lick the spatula. For me, sitting on the counter and flipping through cookbooks was considered fun. I would read off ingredients, or watch carefully as my mom offered pointers while making Grandma’s pound cake.

In college, I would lend out my recipe book that was full of recipes from home. Roommates and friends would borrow a recipe or two, but I was never happy with the results. There was always something missing. Yes it was good, but it never tasted like Mom's.

Married friends had the same experience. Though they were decent cooks themselves, their husbands seemed to prefer their mother’s cooking. Apparently, there are some scientific reasons why we love our mom’s home cooking.

Enzymes may be partly responsible. Our saliva contains enzymes, and chances are, we have inherited some similar enzymes to those of our parents. One enzyme in particular, amylase, helps starch break down into sugars, stimulating our "sweet tooth," causing certain foods to taste better to us.

Physiologically, food in general is known to release endorphins like dopamine, which makes us feel good. Foods rich in dopamine may have been a part of our diet growing up, which helps us relate those feel-good emotions with Mom's cooking.

The nostalgia related to these meals also helps -- and helps a lot, if you ask me. I know that chocolate chip cookies remind me of a favorite (but infrequent) after-school snack I adored while growing up. While there are thousands of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, I prefer the one that I grew up with. Though enzymes and endorphins attempt to explain exactly why we all love our mom’s apple pie, nostalgia may be a stronger reason behind the love for these recipes.

And even though you think that your cookies are infinitely better than the ones that your husband grew up with, his memories (and enzymes) are programmed to like the cookies that his mom would make. Those nostalgic memories are powerful, and have been a part of his life for many years. It might be difficult to break that pattern.

It may be hard to accept that your husband loves his mom's cooking, but that gives both of you a chance to build new food memories together. Spend weekends searching for new recipes to try, ones that neither of you grew up with. It will create a fun atmosphere in your kitchen, and you will be able to help create nostalgia for your own children.

And when recipes don't turn out exactly like Mom's, it usually results in a long phone call -- with me sitting on the counter eating cookie dough straight from the bowl while we chat -- which my mom and I both love.

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