Why you’ll never be as good at cooking as ‘the’ mother-in-law?
By Sam Wass, Medium Well
Although they may not openly admit it, we think it is fair to say that most men think that their mother is a better cook than their other half. If you think that is controversial or incorrect ask him - he’ll almost certainly dodge the question and stutter something about not wanting to compare, whilst daydreaming about some childhood after-school mealtime. We always thought this was a combination of nostalgia, the demise of home economics, and a big dose of mummy’s boy syndrome, (which British blokes in particular have been guilty of since the beginning of time). While those may indeed hold some truth, and we are not suggesting for one minute that your mother-in-law does not adore the adulation she gets from her blue-eyed-boy, for her slightly above average pie or bog-standard Sunday roast. It does however turn out there is an actual scientific reason why he prefers his mummy's cooking over yours - genetics.
Without going all Freudian about his relationship with his mum (but we all know there is some truth there), it is suggested that our saliva contains enzymes, and many of these enzymes are inherited from our parents (mum and dad as well). Amylase in particular, is the enzyme that breaks starch into sugar, and is largely responsible for causing some foods to taste better to us than others, as it stimulates our sweet tooth. While all starches are broken down into sugars in your body, you’ll only enjoy the sweet taste if the changes occur before you swallow. There are different varieties of amylase and most of us produce more than one version, which are determined by your genes.
If you inherited genetic enzyme instructions to break down pastry faster than potato, pastry will taste better to you than potato, and the chances are you’ll prefer a meat pie to meat and potato, because your enzymes can turn pastry into sugar in your mouth much quicker than they can break down the potato.
Furthermore a report from University College London, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states that genetics have a strong influence on shaping children's liking for some foods over others and is highly heritable. While those influences can be changed over time, it would appear that the reason we harp for mother's favourite recipes isn’t all due to fond memories, it’s in our DNA.
We are still convinced there is more to it than just science, and that favourite family recipes are treasured for reasons beyond the explanation of a scientist in a white coat. Cooking is a huge part of family life, and every family has at least a couple of recipes that come out over and over again, because everyone loves them.
Son’s will always love their mum’s cooking, and you’ll just have to deal with that fact, safe in the knowledge that if you’re a mum, one day you will be the Mother-in-Law ‘she’ can’t live up to in the kitchen. As the Hairy Bikers told us - who knows best in the family when it comes to cooking? Mums know best, of course.