Why does a sandwich taste better if someone else makes it?
July 25, 2005 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Why does a sandwich made by someone else always taste better than one you make yourself?
posted by 40 Watt to Food & Drink (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, I disagree totally. Maybe I'm just a picky eater, but if someone else makes it, the proportions are all wrong. I like super-light mayo if any at all, for example.
posted by GaelFC at 11:12 AM on July 25, 2005

WAG: The element of surprise? If you make it yourself, you have an expectation about how it will taste and unless something conflicts with that expectation, your tastebuds go on autopilot.

If someone else makes the sandwich, you are actually tasting it and so your experience is more heightened.

Or maybe I'm full of it!
posted by garbo at 11:12 AM on July 25, 2005

When making your own sandwich, you're distracted by the act of putting together the various fixin's.

While waiting for someone else to make you a sandwich, your appetite and appreciation of the food increases for lack of distraction.
posted by Rothko at 11:20 AM on July 25, 2005

Is there generally money involved? People like to think/make themselves feel that things for which they pay are generally better than that which they obtain for free. Like in the IT industy, managers freak out when something's free and must find a way to spend as much money as the budget will allow in order to feel like they are getting something.
posted by xmutex at 11:31 AM on July 25, 2005

perhaps because when someone else is making a sandwich for someone else (in this case, you) they are taking more care than they would if they made it for themselves.

as would you.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:33 AM on July 25, 2005

I, too, disagree. I almost always prefer sandwiches that I make. Other people put on crap I don't like, and eating a sandwich becomes an exercise in feigned politeness. Me? I can make a sandwich that I love...
posted by jdroth at 11:37 AM on July 25, 2005

Best answer: Having worked for years in a deli, I can totally attest to this experience. Perhaps due to those years in a deli, I got to have a very stable set of rules for how I make a sandwich for myself, out of habit as much as out of rigorous experimentation. Mayo on before the mustard, no condiments touching the meat or cheese, etc. I had a terrible habit of always asking to try a bite of a co-worker's sandwich whenever they went on break - they always looked so different, and tasted so unusual! There are an amazing number of factors in sandwich architecture and design which one probably only notices after too many years at the sandwich counter. No two people make the same sandwich twice, even at the chain Subway (my first job ever...), where the number of frickin' olive rounds are a part of company policy. I suppose there is a hidden moral to experiment and to break your own sandwich making rules here - go ahead, put the cheese in between the lettuce and the tomatos!

(As an aside, my favorite sandwich includes roast turkey, bananas, and mustard made with honey and apple cider vinegar. Think of it as a grown-up, high-protein banana-and-honey sandwich from your youth.)
posted by pants at 11:37 AM on July 25, 2005

When I was a kid, I always wondered what the magical ingredient was in the neighbor mom's egg salad sandwiches that made them so good. I wondered if it was some secret Catholic thing or something. I think it wasn't until college that I figured out it was Miracle Whip (we were a Hellman's family).
posted by matildaben at 11:39 AM on July 25, 2005

Best answer: The extra ingredient, TLC, is a flavour enhancer.

Seriously, it often depends on the sandwich, and the maker. Sometimes, I, like GaelFC, prefer my sandwich a particular way, which others may not be able to replicate. For others sandwich types, the joy of eating something that I haven't had to be involved in creating adds to the taste, sometimes from garbo's explanation, and sometimes because they've made it in a way I wouldn't. These latter taste modification factors are not limited to sandwiches, by the way.

And I disagree with xmutex - I often find I unfortunately don't particularly enjoy sandwiches I've had to pay for.
posted by birdsquared at 11:40 AM on July 25, 2005

I think one of the bonuses of a deli-made sandwich is the fresh ingredients. Sandwiches I make at home use bread that is a couple days old (on average), lettuce that is slightly wilted, lunchmeat that has been sitting in the bottom of the fridge. There's just something about fresh ingredients that makes all the difference to me.
posted by lfaren at 11:48 AM on July 25, 2005

Some sandwiches taste better after they've sat for a little while — especially if they've got dressing or a lot of different-flavored ingredients on them. If you make yourself a sandwich and bite in as soon as it's finished, the flavors won't have blended as well.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:49 AM on July 25, 2005

Coicidentally, I was thinking about this over the weekend because I use the same meats and cheeses as my deli. I came to the conclusion that the magic is in a) the bread and b) the shredded lettuce (when I make sandwiches, I just use romaine leaves).
posted by superkim at 11:56 AM on July 25, 2005

Shredded lettuce, shitty (but oh so soft and spongy) bread, really really bad for you cheese, really really salty meat.

I find that if I compare a homemade sandwich to a deli-bought one, it's in the ingredients. When I buy for myself, I buy really healthy cheese (rawmilk even), and bread that is made of grains and not "wonder." And I buy greens and not romaine / iceberg lettuce, because they have vitamins and protein and stuff. Also, their mayo and mustard (and oil and vinegar) are going to be similarly crappy-for-you-but-really-tasty.

I don't know what to do about it, but a Subway sub sure tastes better (or at least very very different) than my homemade sandwich.

A good starting plate is the bread -- it's a big determinant of sandwhich enjoyment. Buying great homemade rolls will go a long way toward making your own sandwiches better.
posted by zpousman at 12:06 PM on July 25, 2005

I tend to be specific (but not picky) with how I want my sandwiches made. I don't know when it became the norm to drown out all tastes by coating the bread in mayo, but that's my biggest peive at the deli. I know eat sandwich maker by their styles. I like lettuce first, but some appear to have their own plans for my sub. Sometimes I'll even abort my lunch plans based on who's working.

Anyways, I think the secret to making your own sandwich/subs taste better is to use fresh ingredients and let it sit for a bit. I don't know what it is, maybe the ingredients mixing or my own anticipation building, but letting it sit usually makes my own creations taste better.
posted by gaelenh at 12:15 PM on July 25, 2005

I also disagree, mostly because people generally suck at making good sandwiches, and partially because I'm often in a strange mood for a pecuiliar sandwich ingredient.
posted by rxrfrx at 12:22 PM on July 25, 2005

I disagree with you. I make a reuben that suffers no comparison. None.
posted by boo_radley at 12:22 PM on July 25, 2005

I feel this way about coffee. I'm not a big coffee drinker, but when someone else makes it for me I often find I like it a whole lot more. Maybe I just brew coffee poorly though....
posted by soplerfo at 12:26 PM on July 25, 2005

Freshly-sliced meat tastes much better than something that's been sitting around for a while. My sister-in-law worked at a deli, and they were allowed to take home any leftover slices, since the deli wanted to start fresh every day. I think zpousman makes a good point, too--when they make it for you, they don't worry about making it healthy. I nearly always under-salt food I make myself, so store-bought stuff often tastes better.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:35 PM on July 25, 2005

Best answer: There are two things that make (some) food that is made for you in a restaurant taste better than (some) food that you prepare for yourself at home:

1) The fact that you have paid for it. Having literally invested money in it, you are invested in it tasting good. This psychological investment is powerful enough to affect your enjoyment of the sandwich.

2) Fat and salt. Food cooked in restaurants has amazing amounts of salt, butter, cream, mayonnaise, and oil: more than most home cooks are willing to put on their food; and much, much more than anyone with even a bit of a concern about health would. Many deli-prepared sandwiches are dripping in butter, mayo, oil, melted cheese, and so forth, and they tend to be loaded with salt as well - which, for most people, makes them taste better.

That said, there are, of course, always exceptions. I generally prefer cold sandwiches that I make myself. But I must admit that I always prefer hot sandwiches made elsewhere - most likely because I am pretty squeamish about coating them in butter.
posted by googly at 12:53 PM on July 25, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Interesting responses, all. Thanks!
posted by 40 Watt at 1:14 PM on July 25, 2005

Oh, I don't think the ones you pay for are better. Sometimes they are really good, sure. But the best sandwiches I've ever had, which were all made in someone's home, were good because they were different. They were different than ones I make myself. They chose different bread and condiments, and arranged the ingredients in different ways.

I make good sandwiches myself, but there is no "surprise factor" to mine. I construct them exactly how I like them, and I know exactly how they're going to taste. PArt of what makes another person's sandwich so good is their innovative combinations, and their use of strategies I'd never use.
posted by Miko at 1:23 PM on July 25, 2005

Personally, I find that if I use the same ingredients to make something, mine will be better every time. My sandwiches are, typically, crappier than those I buy elsewhere because I use crappier ingredients. But when I worked in a restaurant, my sandwiches were always much better to me than when I had the cook make them.

The correct order for a sandwich is, in my estimation:

bread, mustard or other meat oriented condiments, meat, cheese, any other veggies, tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise or other veggie oriented condiments, bread.

The fact that I cannot, for the life of me get Subway people to make my sandwiches this way is one of my major pet peeves with life. I still like Subway, mostly because of the bread, but I'd like them ever so much more if they could just make my sandwich right.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:33 PM on July 25, 2005

The element of surprise? If you make it yourself, you have an expectation about how it will taste and unless something conflicts with that expectation, your tastebuds go on autopilot.

I agree with this, but it's not just expectation, it's that you're smelling all the ingredients beforehand that puts your tastebuds on autopilot. On the other hand, a lot of times that's exactly what I want to happen with my sandwiches, so...
posted by furiousthought at 3:10 PM on July 25, 2005

I don't know the answer but I can say that I would pay thousands of dollars at this moment for one of my grandfather's sandwiches. He could make masterpieces out of the most bizarre ingredient combinations ever, no two ever the same (even with the same stuff) and always delicious. Darn did this question give me a powerful craving! RIP, Pap.
posted by Dreama at 4:23 PM on July 25, 2005

If you mean a sandwhich that you prepared a few hours ago, perhaps because it's no longer fresh.

If you mean a sandwhich that you just made, perhaps you're desensitized to its flavour because you were in close contact with its ingredients while preparing it. This is true for most foods. Try clearing your palate first by going out for some fresh air or drinking / eating something with a completely different flavour.
posted by randomstriker at 4:24 PM on July 25, 2005

I really don't like all these answers relating to chemicals and cooking methods. I find the "it tastes nicer" phenomenon occurs with food my girlfriend, mother, mother-in-law, or anyone else has prepared. I think it's because you look forward to it a lot more than making your own food.

Of course, it could be because I'm a lousy cook..
posted by wackybrit at 5:48 PM on July 25, 2005

PANTS: no condiments touching the meat or cheese, etc.

Huh? How can condiments not touch meat or cheese? Are they hovering on a thin layer of air? :)

(Or do you not consider lettuce a condiment and use it as a buffer?) And, could you possibly email me the recipe of that banana honey sandwich? I've never heard of such a thing.
posted by dobbs at 8:08 PM on July 25, 2005

Hmmm, coming to the discussion late in the game ..but my take is that nearly everything tastes better when prepared by someone else...or if I can insert a decent interval between preparing it myself and eating. Perhaps I'm thinner-membraned than most, I get flooded by the smells and textures while preparing food and at that point it no longer appeals to my taste buds.
posted by DawnSimulator at 10:29 PM on July 25, 2005

Wow, I must disagree with googly's (checkmarked) reply.

Paying for food, I submit, does not make one like it more out of a sense of investment. I'm sure we've all had great, cheap meals and crappy, expensive meals, and have reflected that the former tends to happen more often. Why? Because more money means higher expectations. The two meals might have the same quality, but at $10 it's a delightful secret and at $30 it's overrated trash.

I suggest the opposite, having lived with the catering supervisor on board a cruise ship. Roommates know that the only thing better than a piece of chocolate cake waiting for you in the fridge is one that appears there and isn't yours but you eat it anyway. In my case, any night, every night, I'd open the fridge and find: baked salmon, apple pie, chocolate cake, cream cheese and smoked salmon/caper dip, and more more more. And it was all the better because it appeared there like magic. Restaurant food is pure wish fulfillment. You want it; it's there.

I agree with googly's attributions regarding ingredients, however.
posted by dreamsign at 11:07 PM on July 25, 2005

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