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The Science Behind Why Your Grandmother’s Cooking Is Always the Best

Both my grandmothers were wonderful cooks, as far as I can remember. I also recall my mother's culinary skills as superb, even though she quit cooking at all some time ago. But my father used to tell stories of when Mom was young and burned everything. I don't recall those times myself. And I've had enough mothers-in-law to realize that you do not became a great cook just from many years of doing it. They were never masters of the kitchen like my grandmothers were.   

But none of it would really matter, because scientifically speaking, the greatness of her cooking goes so far beyond the simple spectrum of palatability. “Food memories feel so nostalgic because there’s all this context of when you were preparing or eating this food, so the food becomes almost symbolic of other meaning,” Susan Whitborne, professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts, told HuffPost in 2017. “A lot of our memories as children, it’s not so much the apple pie, for example, but the whole experience of being a family, being nourished, and that acquires a lot of symbolism apart from the sensory quality.”

Which is to say that every time I eat my grandmother’s cooking, my tastebuds act as a sort of time machine for my subconscious, transporting me back to all those times she let me eat a jar of Nutella and go ape on the drum kit she bought me. In that way, my draw to her cooking is sort of like Pavlov’s dog experiment, only in this case, I’m the dog who’s been conditioned to believe that her stews are culinary Valhalla.

That explains why your grandma's cooking is so good, while other people's grandmas could be complete failures. Science tells us the same factors may be at work to make you really hate particular foods. Read more about these findings at Mel magazine.

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