When Does Food Taste THE BEST? Part 2: The Mystery of the Chicken Sandwich

Saturday I tasted a sandwich that puzzled me. It was the best one I’d ever eaten and yet I couldn’t detect anything particularly special about it.

My fingers tugged at cling film as my lips rested on a brown bun. My teeth crumbled cheese as my tongue prodded roast chicken. Everything slid together and yet the spinach crunched. Breathing in, the seasonings intensified as I struggled to identify a mystery ingredient.

Mystery unsolved, I regretted answering “no” when my mom asked, “Do you want an extra sandwich for the cooler?”

I made a mental note to interrogate her about the sandwich later. Then I stuffed the plastic into the glove compartment, stepped on the gas and chased the boys to the 10th hole.

Later while we waited for a couple ahead of us to putt, my husband snagged me in a hug. He whispered, “You smell good, like sunscreen.” As we strolled toward the green I answered, “I don’t have any sunscreen on.” And then I stopped. His sunscreen comment had put a piece in place and my puzzlement over the mysteriously good chicken sandwich disappeared.

I didn’t have sunscreen on but it seemed like I did because of my sun-warmed t-shirt, the fresh breezy air and the salty sweat on my skin.

The chicken sandwich wasn’t different from any other but it seemed like it was because the exercise enhanced my hunger, the sunshine enhanced the colors, and the salt in the air (and on my skin) enhanced the flavors.

Both the imagined sunscreen and the seemingly unique sandwich were due to the outdoors and exercise.

Sure enough, when I asked my mom what she’d done differently in making the sandwich, she squinted at me suspiciously, “It was just chicken, cheddar, spinach, mustard and mayo on a bun.”

“Salt? Pepper? Butter? You sure you didn’t add anything else?”

She looked worried, “No, nothing. Why, was there something wrong?”

“Nope. But thanks. It was the best sandwich ever!”

She seemed relieved…and then puzzled: “What made it so good?”


Check out the other posts in the series When Does Food Taste THE BEST?

Part 1: So Good

Part3: Firstovers

Part 4: Party’s in the Kitchen

Part 5: When Someone Else Does the Cooking

Oh, and hey, I’m not the only one who thinks food tastes better outside and/or after exercise. Check out these links for info, ideas and inspiration:

An animal study shows that mice prefer food they worked harder to get.

America’s foodiest town is also full of outdoor exercise opportunities. Coincidence? I think not (Bon Appetit restaurant Editor Andrew Knowlton probably agrees)!

Fave foods enjoyed outdoors by the crew at Leave No Trace

Some pseudo-scientific explanations for why food may taste better outdoors on Askville by Amazon

In Greece, Mikaela from ‘Baguette Taste – Wonder Bread Budget’ discovered that “Everything tastes better outside.”

Some recipes ideal for eating outdoors from some San Fran chefs


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  1. #1 by Debi(Table Talk) on January 19, 2011 - 8:01 pm

    While living in Northern California, one of my favorite things to do was go for a long hike and finish with a picnic dinner. The food never tasted better, and we were always famished from a days worth of hills.
    I think it was the fresh air and feeling of contentment that made your chicken sandwich taste so good!

    • #2 by cookthestory on January 19, 2011 - 9:44 pm

      I agree. Nothing like fresh air to enhance a meal. Speaking of hiking has made me remember going for walks in England with my in-laws. We always end at a pub and the food always seems like the best reward for our sweat. I try to recreate those pub lunches at home but never quite succeed. I think it’s because I’m slaving in a hot kitchen before eating and not briskly walking through the fog! It’s always fun to cook and even better to eat the results but it’s just not the same.

  2. #3 by Dani on January 20, 2011 - 10:21 pm

    This goes along with my theory that anything cooked over a campfire tastes better than anything not cooked over a campfire. It’s an outdoors, fresh air, exercise thing.

    • #4 by cookthestory on January 21, 2011 - 7:32 am

      Oh, I love cooking over a campfire! I’ve tried all kinds of different things but my favorite will probably always be hotdogs and smores. Boring, I know.

      • #5 by Dani on January 21, 2011 - 11:13 am

        Foil dinners are my favorite. Also fairly boring, but sometimes simple is best!

  1. When Does Food Taste THE BEST? Part 3: Firstovers « Cook the Story
  2. When Does Food Taste THE BEST? Part 4: Party’s in the Kitchen « Cook the Story
  3. When Does Food Taste THE BEST? Part 5: When Someone Else Does the Cooking « Cook the Story

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