Thursday, May 27, 2010

Love it or Hate it: Cilantro

In my family, there is a battle raging. There are those of us who detest even a trace amount of Cilantro and those who cannot get enough of it. Each side has very strong opinions and cannot understand how ANYONE could love or, in the opposite case, hate it. There's a lot of eye rolling. For the most part, we are an open minded bunch. But for some reason, there is no middle ground in this debate. Ask anyone if they like cilantro and you will get one of two strong responses. I have yet to meet a person who says, "Take it or leave it. I simply have no opinion."

It seems that even though cilantro is the most frequently used herb in the world, the divide is strong and global. Researchers have been studying this phenomenon and there may be a scientific reason why people have such strong reactions to the herb. And it doesn't matter how "dignified" or "cultured" your palette is, you will either love it or hate it.

My Mom is a very good cook, open to many of the world's cuisines. And she LOVES cilantro. She is in the "eat it by the bunch-full" camp. Whereas, my sister and I absolutely gag at even the slightest smell of it. We both think it tastes a lot like soap and even a fraction of a leaf destroys whatever dish it is a part of. My sister will push aside said offending plate and will completely lose her appetite. We have been in situations where she is starving to the point where she's shaking. And then her food arrives, cilantro is present, she notices it with the first bite and she's done. Not interested in eating, anymore. (Maybe this is the great new diet drug?)

There are people close to me who claim to have a food allergy to it, even though it is more of an aversion. And when they go to a restaurant they tell their server that they will have a very bad reaction if it gets anywhere near their plate. I am sure there are people out there with this actual allergy, but I like saving such conversations for things that we are ACTUALLY allergic to. And believe me, that is enough to get any server's head spinning!

Oddly enough, my own reaction to cilantro has lessened over the years. So many restaurants that I love use it. And so many cuisines; Thai, Mexican, Indian and even California Pizza Kitchen! If I remember, I mention my dislike even when ordering. But every so often I get a piece. And I do not come unglued, like I used to. Yesterday, I was dining at one of my favorite restaurants, the Border Grill. I ordered the chicken tostada sans cilantro. But some made its way onto my plate. The rest of the meal was so darn good I wasn't about to waste it by sending it back or risk having spit added. And then I got into the car and heard someone talking about the LOVE/HATE thing on my satellite radio. It seems that even the great Julia Child despised it. (She also detested arugula, which I happen to love.)

This is a great article worth reading from last month's New York Times.

Which side are you on?


Robert Boyle said...

I am sorry, Cilantro is just disgusting to me. I remember one time when I was much younger and went into this Mexican food place in SLO. Well, it was later on in the evening and I purchased a burrito and a coke and almost gaged on it. It tasted like it was full of soapy water. Turned out that I had never really been exposed to Cilantro and I did not like it. Still don't like it. At least now, I tell them NO Cilantro.
And that is the rest of the story. love

Marc said...

I LOVE Cilantro. Adds a little spice to life. I just went to Joan's on Third this week and bought their butter beans and Cilantro. Loved it!
Amy Cohen