I Just Learned Why Cooking For Ages Makes You Lose Your Appetite, And It Makes So Much Sense

Here's why you can't even bring yourself to eat that bolognese you spent hours on.
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Picture the scene. You’ve spent hours stirring a velvety ragu over a hot stove; fresh-rolled pasta drapes itself in ribbons in a bubbling pot of water; verdant parsley tops some just-baked garlic bread.

You sit down, serve the feast to everyone at the table, take your much-anticipated first bite, and... nothing.

In fact, you might not even fancy the forkful at all.

It’s a phenomenon I, and some of my fellow food-loving friends, have talked about a lot. There’s just something about making dinner, especially an involved feast, that oddly puts you off eating.

Turns out the phenomenon might not just be anecdotal ― psychologists have documented the culinary contradiction, too.

So what’s happening here?

In the New York Times’ fourth Food and Drink magazine, psychologist Daniel Kahneman wrote, “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.”

Not only are you overthinking it, but chances are your brain gets a hankering for something completely different after a while.

We’ve written before about sensory-specific satiety ― the part of your brain that can crave ice cream even though you’re stuffed from a roast dinner.

“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,” Kahneman said.

He’s not alone. Carnegie Mellon researchers found that the more you think about a particular food, the less likely you are to eat it later.

Of course, this doesn’t just apply to sandwiches ― in fact, from personal experience, I’d say the longer you spend cooking something, the less likely you are to enjoy it.

Anything else going on?

We’re leaving the world of psychology and research here, but a Reddit thread on the topic provides some anecdotal insight and speculation.

“Standing over a pot of fragrant food for a long time makes you go nose-blind to how good it smells. And since a major part of our sense of taste actually comes from smell, the food ends up tasting blander to the cook than it does to everyone else,” one commenter said.

“I taste my food constantly, so I’m probably not hungry by the time it’s done. I’m just happy that other people can enjoy it,” another wrote.

“When I yell, ‘Dinner’s ready!’ I head outside for a short walk. This serves two purposes for me. I’m clear of the flying elbows and cutlery, and the house smells so good when I get back. An olfactory reset does wonders,” yet another commenter said.

I might just have to give that last one a go...