Why do sandwiches taste better when someone else makes them?

Kirjoittaja on New Yorkissa varttunut ja Helsingissä naisistunut copywriter.

Dear Mom,

Like most people, I like to listen to Spotify while I’m working. Spotify is God’s gift to open-plan offices. But I have a problem. All my playlists sound like shit. The songs all sound the same. And it turns out there actually is a limit to how many times a person can listen to Pokerface without wanting to poke chopsticks into their ears. So I asked my art director friend to send me one of his playlists. He did and I listened. Aaaaaaah, it’s amazing! OMG, he’s not just an AD, he’s also a DJ! A musical genius! But wait a second… why does everyone from Lady Gaga to Ladytron sound better on Jere’s playlist than they do on mine? I think it might have something to do with sandwiches.

Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel Prize winning economic psychologist. He’s written lots of interesting things about how people make decisions, noting that people are generally more likely to focus on avoiding risks than making gains when they make decisions about all sorts of things. As I said, his contributions to the field of economic psychology won him a Nobel Prize. But he should have gotten one for answering a question that has plagued and perplexed mankind since biblical times: Why do sandwiches always taste better when someone else makes them?

Kahneman said in the Food and Drink issue of the New York Times Magazine that: ”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. 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.”

So basically the process of stacking bread, meat, cheese, lettuce and mayo causes you to loose your appetite for that ham sandwich you were craving. I guess it makes sense. But I can’t help but wonder why so many chefs are… well, fat. I guess maybe they emotionally eat because the food they work so hard to make doesn’t taste as good to them as it does to everyone else. It’s actually kind of depressing when you think about it.

I guess the same principle can be applied to most things, really. Maybe “the sandwich theory” is also the answer to why it so often feels like everyone else’s work is better than your own. Or why it’s easier to see the beauty in other people than in yourself.

Ugh… I have to go. I just reread this letter and it sounds like crap. I need a sandwich.

Love, Lissu