Cilantro At least cilantro loves itself (and I’m sure his mom thinks he’s special — bitch). In the spirit of full disclosure, this is in reference to another question that came in, when I worked at the same popular industry food magazine, that went “What makes cinnamon so special?” Sure, what makes all foods so special? But the question at hand is, what makes cilantro so special in the skunk of the earth way, not in the mull me some red wine, garnish my cappuccino, serve as the je ne sais quoi (I’m learning French, more on what makes French special later) for any number of, largely, Midwestern-Mex-inspired chili recipes way. For me it’s a different kind of je ne sais quoi, the Platonic ideal of awful, manifest in that stupid little herb. At a certain point, things must be described in relation to other things, right?, so, for instance, one way I could describe other foods is by how far away they are from the flavor of cilantro (the flavor of awful); a simple vanilla panna cotta would score very well here, having nothing whatsoever to do with the flavors of cilantro. Can’t quite explain why, just know vanilla panna cotta doesn’t taste like cilantro. For a lot of people the stuff tastes like soap. I myself haven’t eaten a lot of soap, and my folks, moderate-conservatives as they might be, never insisted I try it, even when using phrases like “I f##$&ing hate cilantro.” But, I have a vague sense of what soaps generally taste like: it’s slipped into my mouth while showering or washing my face, or whatever it might be, plus they (they) say that some high percentage of taste is smell, and I definitely know what aggregate soap smells like, so that adds to the idea that I know what soap tastes like as well. Despite a general idea of this, I only vaguely taste it when eating cilantro. Again, what I really taste is awfulness. From it’s texture, (cilantro-y awful), to it odor (pungently offensive) to it’s flavor (Platonic idea of terrible) it’s just sort of vaguely herbaceous and, here’s one of the main problems, completely overwhelming. I hate cilantro with a consuming passion. I think it’s important to determine why we (the royal we) hate things, you know, in the spirit of fairness. Why we love things can (and maybe should) remain a mystery, lest we deconstruct the epistemological foundation on which that love might not have known it stood. But hate, that’s a “bad thing” or, certainly a lot of hate is really bad. Perhaps if we figure out why we hate a thing we can 1) quit hating it 2) come to terms with that hate or 3) if the hate is valid, spread that hate with the utmost determination. Jury’s still out for me on where this hate will go, but, I think I’ve figured out the nature of my hate: 1) Platonic ideal of “tastes bad”
2) Overwhelms every dish it’s in with its badness
3) Increased popularity in kitchens (both home and professional) across the country, counter-intuitively paralleling the rise in educated food consumers with discriminating palates
4) Frequently served with what would otherwise be some of my favorite dishes/cuisines: salsa — LOVE tomatoes; everything Indian, everything Thai, everything “South of the border”
5) Makes me an outcast, constantly chastised by my bigoted friends and I would urge any of you cilantro haters out there to do the same.