Archive for December, 2007

In the spirit of year-end top 10 lists and holiday giving, here’s my Christmas gift to cilantro: the top 7 things at Cosi in 2007 that are (perhaps) more annoying than cilantro.

7. The tagline, “Simply Good Taste”

6. The use of the word traditional in the Traditional Cheese Flatbread. (In case you were wondering — traditional cheese is mozzarella cheese.)

5. The way the soup guy stares at me when I order a tomato soup, rather than ask what he’s really thinking, which is “What size (eye roll) of tomato soup would you like (eye roll) ma’am?,” until I say say, “Um, small?”

4. The worst incarnation of lunch salad-ready factory farm chicken ever known to man, and at a premium price.

3. The inconsistency in flatbread salt level. It’s immeasurably better when well-salted.

2. The very very small print on everything (especially the overhead salad menu) rendering it impossible to determine what you might want in advance, giving you nothing to do while you wait in line, except strain your eyes in vain.

1. The expression “Nothing Says holiday like eggnog (we don’t know why either).” Ick. Is there anything more annoying than cold calculating corporations trying to seem ironic or hip or coolly ignorant? No, there isn’t. It’s very annoying. Furthermore, the reasons eggnog say holiday are obvious:

i. Eggnog is served always and only during the holidays.

ii. Does nothing, in fact, say holiday like eggnog? What about mistletoe, snowflakes,
Christmas trees, menorahs, turkey, ham, family, red and green together, peppermint sticks, the calendar months November and December, presents, mulled red wine, Santa Claus, reindeer, etc., etc. These take nothing away from the eggnog/holiday association, (in fact my coworkers have confirmed that eggnog is on their top 5 list of holiday word associations) but would question the superlative “Nothing” says holiday like eggnog.

iii. People love eggnog, even if they don’t love eggnog. It makes you feel warm and nostalgic. The corporate suits have absolutely, deliberately chosen eggnog as the symbol of the holidays to make you (the consumer) associate warm, nostalgic feelings with them (Cosi) and, you know, buy more stuff, and then backed away from this deliberateness by suggesting the eggnog reference is innocent, accidental, organic. We could all learn a lot from Starbucks.

See you in 2008, earnestly back to the business of hating cilantro.

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While 2 of my Brooklyn friends trek to the East Village to enjoy a nice, healthy Saturday night dinner at Caravan of Dreams, a lovely near-vegan restaurant run by spacey for real and would-be rastas, (consider the dialogue “I’m sorry, I forgot what you ordered. Could to tell me again?,” followed by an overheard conversation between our waitress and another table “I’m sorry, I forgot what you ordered. Could you tell me again?”) I decide to stay home, pack for ‘Home for the Holidays, 2.0,’ finish some work, and make myself a delicious salad with goat cheese.

Of course, I’d have to go to the store to buy some greens and goat cheese, since I don’t have anything but Christmas cookies and pantry goods in the house. So, I go to the store and throw the requisite Earthbound Farm Organic mix in my basket, but, as I’d feared, my just-down-the-street store doesn’t have goat cheese, the official cheese of gentrification. They do, however, have that delicious ‘no bread needed to fry it’ Queso Para Freir cheese. Being flexible about these sorts of things, I’m thinking I’ll make a mixed green salad with toasted almonds and some of that fried cheese with a nice super acidic with a little bit of honey vinaigrette.

I heated some canola oil in a pan, or started to, when I lifted the pan to, I don’t know what now that I think about it, and promptly burnt my chin on contact. Ouch. I’m already thinking this was a bad idea. I should have just gone to Caravan, but, I’m rolling with the situation. The pan is definitely hot, and that’s all I needed to know, so, you know, mission accomplished. I fry the cheese, drain the cheese, bla bla. Then I throw together a quick vinaigrette (dijon, balasamic, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper) and toss it with a large handful of greens and the almonds (bought them toasted; yes I’m alright with that). It’s at this point I notice sparse pieces of what would seem to be dill (it was) and think I might be in trouble. Yeah, there are more green things in the salad that aren’t lettuce.

I go for the fridge, find the package, “Fresh Herb Salad.” Shit. I’ve bought this before, a long time ago, and seem to remember this is not a cilantro-hater’s friend, this “Fresh Herb Salad.” Indeed, there is cilantro throughout. It’s unavoidable. I can’t pick out all the pieces, especially now that it’s been tossed together, and it’s all variations of the same color — even if I wanted to extract each piece of cilantro, finding them all would be a huge chore unto itself. And, I’ve stayed home to save time and get some stuff done, not spend an hour removing cilantro from my salad.

So, I eat the salad, doing my best to avoid the cilantro pieces. I fail. The salad was terrible. I got nice almondy-cheesy bites, but what I wanted was salad with stuff in it, not stuff with salad garnish. I realized I haven’t actually eaten cilantro in awhile; I do try to avoid it. I became mesmerized, focusing intently on a single leaf. How far away could I smell it from? (not that far, maybe 6 inches) How large was each piece in the salad? (ranging from 2-square millimeters to 1-square inch) What did it taste like? (terrible, just terrible). Did I still hate it? (yes, as much, if not more, than ever).

What gets me is how ubiquitous it’s become, cilantro. There are exactly three herbs in the Earthbound Herb Salad: parsley, dill and cilantro. Parsley seems a given — most people I know like it or are indifferent to it; you can put it in anything. Dill, I have to say, is an odd choice — I love dill, but I’m pretty sure not everyone does. This is a salad mix, I would assume, meant to please the general palate (I did purchase it in a store that doesn’t sell goat cheese). Cilantro, well, there’s just no need. I’ve come to expect it in my guacamole, salsa, saag panir, etc, but not in my supermarket salad mix. Between the dill and the cilantro, I would guess Earthbound is making some enemies with this salad.

But, the joke’s on me. I need to return to checking all labels, being more mindful, asking more questions in restaurants, lest another slip-up like this occur. As cilantro is more and more absolutely everywhere, I need to up my defenses against it, otherwise cilantro will have won.

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Rick Bayless, admired in the food world for bringing authentic but modern regional Mexican cooking to the palates of the Midwestern dining mainstream and foodie elite at Chicago restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, respectively, has also withstood (if not instigated) his own share of controversy in the same community.

Trouble came when Bayless was percevied to have ‘sold-out’ by starring in a Burger King commercial where he would seem to be enjoying a low-fat Santa Fe something or other chicken sandwich ‘served’ on a baguette. My opinion on the matter is it’s basically much ado about nothing — when it comes to calling people sell-outs, especially in the cheffing community, most people should, you know, move out of their glass houses or quit throwing rocks.

But, Bayless has now put his name on something far worse than a $2.99 tasteless factory farm raised chicken sandwich — he’s put his name on the “Avocado Peeler” in Cilantro. I’ll leave the critique of the object’s functionality to whomever is running the “things_you_could_do_easier_with_a_spoon_than_a_twelve_dollar_object_you’ll_never_
use_you_stupid_moron” blog. What concerns me is something else entirely.

Most obviously and importantly, the scooper color is not cilantro ((when did cilantro become a color — we’re in real trouble?!) unless it were dried-out near dead cilantro, and, while I like the idea that that’s what was intended in naming the color cilantro, something tells me it wasn’t); the color could go by lime green (although come to think of it, limes really aren’t the color lime green — we have a crisis of color nomenclature on our hands here; when was the last time you saw someone puke in puke green?) or more accurately, Ecto Cooler green.

The color’s name is a lie, and so one must ask, “why the lie?” A couple answers come to mind. 1) Cilantro lovers are morons, so they won’t notice the color naming is wrong but rather be attracted to the device’s name without questioning its veracity (they no doubt will want to get their hands on the peeler as soon as possible in order to make cilantro-laden ‘guacamole’); Bayless & Co. are just going after their stupid target audience. Or 2) Bayless has himself become a moron by virtue of his intense cilantro love and has become so clouded he can’t even tell the color is not cilantro — he just sees it everywhere (by Bayless I mean the marketers and product developers who made this whole abomination happen — in reality he must have had nearly nothing to do with the whole endeavor — let’s hope). 3) This is a subliminal message meant to drive home the cilantro name to any moron willing to buy this product for any reason — they want more of their kind.

They want it so badly, they’ve gone so far as to not offer the product, or many of their other products in any color other than cilantro. If you want an avocado peeler, you’ll have it in cilantro, dammit. They’re forcing cilantro – the idea – on anyone who might be dumb enough to want to buy this gadget. It’s not enough that cilantro lovers are all morons, they’re trying to turn all morons into cilantro lovers too: “Well, no Suzy, you know, I don’t really like cilantro, but I just love the color cilantro, you know, the color of my new favorite avocado peeler by Rick Bayless, that guy from the Food Network.” Morons.

However you weigh in on it, you can’t argue, the morons have an agenda to attract more morons. And if we’ve learned anything from this presidency we ought to have learned that the only thing worse than a moron in a place of power is a moron in a place of power with an agenda. Boycott the Avocado Peeler in Cilantro.

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You know the old saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, out of lack of absolute knowledge as to whether .com(s) (brainyquotes, wisdom quotes, quoteland or quotationspage) has the most accurate records, equally doubting the veracity of them all in fact, whereby brainyquotes, for instance, accredits the quote to both Woody Allen and Groucho Marx (it’s Woody quoting Groucho in Annie Hall that commonly causes the mixup that it’s a Woody quote — it’s a Groucho quote) and in any case, it more or less goes like this, I’d never want to join a club that would have me as a member?

Right, so I find it mildly hilarious, even after time. I also think there’s some truth to it, probably why it’s so funny. Indeed, I’ve been on a Facebook group founding spree this week (having just joined the social networking situation a few weeks ago), feeling more apt to start a group called “I love mustard” then join one, but alas someone beat me to the punch and their tagline included roasted garlic mustard as one of the many in their fridge and, had I formed the group, that certainly wouldn’t have made the list. Loving mustard to me involves loving its purist forms, not buying dozens of artisan varieties, so, for now, I’ll love my kind of mustard on my own time, without the support of other mustard lovers.

Joining groups presents all kinds of problems because, inevitably, you won’t subscribe to all the group’s dogma, a conflict I would hope, but am less than sure, that the world’s faithful struggle with from time to time. For me, today, the question is whether to become a member of ihatecilantro.com. On the one hand, I do hatecilantro.com, on the other, their last news update is from early September, so I question their dedication to the cause. Then again, the site is well-executed, its tone just right. Their logo and commitment to cilantro hate publicity and awareness is worthy of my respect, and that of even the greatest lover of cilantro who still believes in the importance of the first amendment, although I’m willing to consider a correlation between not only cilantro love and moronicism, but also freedom of speech hating on-ism.

But back to the original problem, I’m not sure I want to belong to a group of a bunch of people just like me, a group that would have and encourage my membership. We could be, well, so obnoxious put in a room together. It makes me think of when I was vegan, making me a de facto member of the vegan club, a truly sanctimonious and utterly difficult to be around crew. Do I want to join a group of people who will, by virtue of being in the same group, assume they have more in common with me than they might? Do I want to associate with a lot based on hate, when I’m a member of exactly zero other groups (Facebook aside,*sigh*)? These are important questions I’m asking myself as I decide if I’ll be joining the 1,731 already existing members. I need to sleep on this for a few days, but I’ll be back with a satisfying conclusion.

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At the risk of offending, oh, say, 97% of my THOUSANDs of loyal readers, I’ll go ahead and say it: there seems to be a strong link between the love of cilantro and the display of moron-like characteristics, where moron will here be defined, as any self-respecting user of the English language would define it, as the American Heritage Dictionary does, as

“NOUN:1. A stupid person; a dolt. 2. Psychology A person of mild mental retardation having a mental age of from 7 to 12 years and generally having communication and social skills enabling some degree of academic or vocational education. The term belongs to a classification system no longer in use and is now considered offensive. ETYMOLOGY: From Greek mron, neuter of mros, stupid, foolish.”

I prefer the second definition, but far be it from me to use archaic or, even worse, offensive denotations; the first has a nice, curt, to-the-point, so easy even a moron could understand it meaning, and given my audience, well… Yes, I quite like “a dolt.”

Right, so, to the point, what makes these herb-lovers morons? Exhibit A (there will only be one exhibit in today’s post — I’ll build this case over time), is taken from an I Hate Cilantro.com Discussion Board and goes like this:

“Okay, I heard about this website from a friend and doubted it’s existince, but upon visiting the page I not only found out it’s real, I realized you “Anti-cilantro” people are insane.

First, off cilantro was not spawed from satan’s stomach, and angel’s did not trick us into liking it. Come on would angels trick us, that sounds like something the devil would do right so the human race gets brain washed into following the devil.

Second, it’s not something to get majorly offended by, like not being friends with someone because the served you cilantro, or being really picky at resturants because god you might eat some in pasta sauce.

Lastly, why pick on cilantro? Why not hate on foods like cod liver oil or limburger cheese? Foods that are actually offensive to the senses. Cilantro is not gross enough to merit an entire website and Haikus about it. It’s like orange juice I don’t LOVE, but don’t hate it. I wouldn’t go across the world to bet some, but if I had some I would use it.

Ok. Let’s leave spelling and grammatical errors alone. I’ll leave that to whomever is running the “I hate the rampant depletion of grammatical, spelling and self-copy editing standards in cyber English publication” blog. The larger issue here is that this cilantro lover is arguing the wrong point with the wrong logic.

1. While I don’t see any convincing evidence from Cilantro Lover, heretofore Moron, that cilantro wasn’t spawned from Satan’s stomach, its origin is hardly the point. I also don’t see a lot of cilantro haters citing Satan’s patriarchy as the cause for their hate, indeed we tend to be a fairly agnostic bunch, although it wouldn’t be a terrible hypothesis, I suppose.

2. I. I’ll thank you not to tell me what to get offended by. II. Any friend that would deliberately serve me something I hate, all things being equal, might deserve a reevaluation. That said, I don’t think too many friendships are lost on this issue. Cilantro haters, at least, are reasonable people. III. Please see “Basil is NOT Cilantro” Post. Cilantro is not found in pasta sauce. You obviously don’t understand this problem properly; you need to work on your empathy skills.

3. Why pick on cilantro? Why not hate other foods? I don’t know where to begin. Would anyone choose to hate cilantro. It’s not fun, it’s not an easy lot in life. It’s a burden. It’s an annoyance. It’s a cross to bare. But, we’re a strong people and we survive. We blame no one but cilantro itself. And why not hate others foods? One’s enough for me thanks. You don’t like orange juice, well, that’s just messed up. ihateorangejuice.com doesn’t even exist, man — for a reason — it rules. But, you don’t have to like orange juice. I just find flaw in the the logic that because you don’t like orange juice I should like cilantro. But, Moron, you just wouldn’t understand.

Finally, when you say “cilantro isn’t gross enough” you’re missing the idea of subjective palates. It’s not gross at all to you, but it is very much gross at all to me, and thousands like me. Mine is not an evangelical mission, as I have made clear in the past, but an effort to explain, to enlighten, to edify. And you represent a growing group of cilantro lovers or, a largely marginalized group of cilantro indifferenters, who seeks not to understand cilantro hate but to condemn and chastise it. You’re fighting a losing and worthless battle. Hating Cilantro is a solitary battle, united as we may be, each hater has to ultimately confront his/her hate on his/her own. You don’t know what you have, Moron. You just don’t see.

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