Archive for the ‘Cilantro Hate Nuance’ Category

The queue of compelling cilantro hate topics to entertain grows as my time/commitment wanes and while the list is long and I do hope to cover some ground in the weeks and months ahead, one topic stands apart from the others and deserves immediate attention.

The apparent hiatus/tech failure/abandonment of the I Hate Cilantro site by my cilantro-hating brethren at ihatecilantro.com has got me thinking: who, what, why? But, given that I prefer speculation and creative thinking to good old-fashioned investigative journalism (contextually), let’s go Fox News on the situation, let’s go rogue!

Possible explanations:

1. I Hate Cilantro quit hating cilantro.
2. I Hate Cilantro is having a very serious tech problem (the site has been down for at least a month if not longer) manifest in a lone sad face surrounded by gratuitous negative space.
3. I Hate Cilantro just quit. Enough. The burden is too great to alone shepherd the growing and growingly vocal numbers of professed cilantro haters.
4. I Hate Cilantro is making an implicit statement about internet media: the masses seek a return to critical experts telling them what to think without the interruption of clunky forums and various interactive templates that would seek to make their voices heard in ways more cumbersome and complicated than the immensely efficient “comment” option provided by nearly all blogs.

Whatever has happened, the implications are clear. I must carry the cilantro hate torch alone. I accept this responsibility and will do my best to not let you down cilantro haters everywhere.

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I’ve been getting annoyed a lot recently, not that me getting annoyed is in anyway anomalous. I am someone who gets annoyed: whether a person (or group) is being a jerk or too nice (in a an ostensibly genuine but upon closer inspection not altogether genuine way), too loud or too soft spoken, too dumb or too erudite, admittedly there’s a thin tipping point in my book where something goes from just right, to just not. But I’m not a hypocrite–(or at least not an unknowing hypocrite, we’re all hypocrites after all) I’m annoying too.

But getting annoyed is not, you know, a trait I’m interested in nurturing. I’m self-aware enough to know that an over abundance of getting-annoyed-ness has more to do with me than with the world around me, that I have some power in getting annoyed less and that getting annoyed less would probably have the effect of, rather intuitively, me being less annoyed, which seems pretty good.

So I’ve done a bit of science on this situation. Having a predisposition to getting annoyed, I’m going to need somewhere to channel this propensity. And that’s where you, neglected cilantro hate blog, come in: nothing is more reliably, even comfortingly, annoying than cilantro, and unlike say republicans hellbent on stopping health care reform, cilantro being you know an herb, as opposed to near-half the American population, seems like a healthier, easier and altogether more fun place to direct my annoyance.

There are other reasons, too, why I’ve come to think revisiting this blog might mitigate this annoyance phase (don’t we all live in phases? I know I do.). Principally, I very much miss writing and not just writing, but writing about something that is so uniquely mine, not the hate of cilantro–we’re a large, vocal group–but the whatever unique blend of memoir, personal philosophy and of course cilantro hate encounters this blog evolved into. In no uncertain terms: my blog is way better than ThisIsWhyYou’reFat, however fun it is (I guess), but rather than be annoyed with how much better my blog is, it seems a better use of time to write my blog than be annoyed that other people are writing (popular) stupid ones. With that I bring you….

The Week in Cilantro Hate:

1.) Thank you Vanessa for your tip on McDonald’s’ new salad, the Southwest Chicken Salad, which features cilantro lime chicken and some sort of Ranch dressing with cilantro in it. Now, call me a snob if you will but Ranch dressing isn’t my first choice, and McDonald’s chicken belongs in a group (with say haggis) of “meats I don’t want to eat” (As a side note, I’m dabbling in veganism at the moment), but McDonald’s: consider yourselves removed from my cilantro safe-restaurant list, a blow certainly as detrimental as Fast Food Nation, Super Size Me and Food Inc. combined (oh wait, McDonald’s is doing better than ever?)

2.) This morning I had a falafel platter at Miriam in Brooklyn that came with a green tahini sauce. I of course asked if it was green from the addition of parsley or cilantro. “Both,” said the waitress, “but you really can’t taste the cilantro.”

“But, I really hate it.”
“So do I, you can’t taste it.”
“Is it on the side?”
“Cool, I’ll try it.”

Guess what? I couldn’t taste it. I didn’t eat much of it, but I really didn’t taste it. This leaves me wondering if there was actually cilantro in it or if the amount was so small that even I couldn’t taste it (this doesn’t seem likely, haters know even the slightest amount is totally egregious). In any case, the waitress was surprisingly right, and it was great to not be annoyed.

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I’m not much of a liar.

There’s an obvious potential paradox here that I won’t even insult you explaining, but choose to believe me or not, I’m actually a pretty honest person. This is for a variety of reasons most notably: I’m bad at lying, My long-term memory is better than my short term memory and I would have a hard time keeping my facts straight (in other words, I’m bad at lying) and I, to be honest, have this strange sense of what one might call integrity wrapped around this virtue, if you will, of telling the truth. Telling the truth is better than not, most of the time, and I leave it to men smarter and men dumber than me to decide when those times might be.

Except with this whole “I’m allergic to cilantro” businesss, which WSJ quoted me on and has been the source of much discussion since. Commenters have written that they are worried I’ve exposed the lie as such and restaurateurs and cocktail hour hosts across the world will no longer take the allergy proclamation seriously. Another commenter worries that the “crying wolf” waters down the very serious allergies of people like her daughter–restaurants no longer take allergies seriously, everyone’s got an “allergy,” these days.

To be fair, I’ve always had a somewhat unfounded attitude towards allergies, with the exception of peanuts (though I resent people with peanut allergies because it means I can’t eat them on planes anymore), thinking they’re largely the result of 1) too worrisome parents who don’t feed their kids anything potentially allergy-causing and hence end up with kids “allergic” to everything 2) nature telling us we shouldn’t be eating these things we’re “allergic” too (lactose intolerant, please, eating milk from another species (and after early childhood) is unprecedented in the animal kingdom and just straight weird–yes I eat milk products) 3) a general hypochondria that has swept the nation. But, while these opinions aren’t going anywhere soon, in all seriousness, of course if a child, especially, has a physical reaction when eating a food, I don’t want to stand in the way, in any way, of them not eating that food.

But, I don’t see that happening. I worked in a bunch of restaurants and I can tell you chefs take allergies seriously, especially real ones like peanut allergies, and while they find it HOPELESSLY ANNOYING, they don’t want to get sued or lose business, so they comply. They’ve gotten so used to allergies, that they are actually more prepared and skilled at dealing with them. Separate areas for peanuts, separate pans for garlic or meat or vegetables. Do they sneak a little butter into risotto they call vegan? I’ve seen it done. And why? Because they find vegans annoying and their cause not sympathetic whereas they find people with allergies equally annoying, but a potential lawsuit–they would also have proof of the infraction in theory where the vegan wouldn’t. (I’m speaking in general from my experience here, but I think I’m right). So there you go, the person with the allergy gets what they want and the person with a distaste doesn’t, at least not relaibly.

So then the question becomes, do I, a paying customer deserve to get what I want? Yes. I think so. I treat “the help” politely and when I’ve explained I don’t like, even hate cilantro, it finds a way onto the plate. Those of you who have watched a certain amount of Sex and the City know that the Carrie Bradshaw character does not like parsley and uses the same lying technique to avoid getting parsley in her food. This of course annoys Berger to no end and is probably the beginning of the end of their relationship, but I digress. I get what I want when I lie. It carries that I could do this in other arenas of my life, (get what I want by lying) but one must sacrifice one’s integrity with calculation and consideration for mankind.

I would argue that the rampant allergic-ness of America has in fact made it easier to have an allergy in America (described above) and that while this makes things more difficult and annoying for chefs, it makes things better for diners, in other words for the demand to the restaurant’s supply, and those with allergies have nothing to fear from liars like me, and cilantro haters calling themselves allergic similarly have nothing to fear because the chef is obliged to take the allergy seriously. But cilantro haters out there, if your hate is as real, as tangible, as undeniable as mine, it is as serious an unpleasantry as most not-serious allergies (which is to say most allergies) and if lying means I can enjoy a meal, one man’s hives is another man’s ruined palate and dining experience, let’s leave it at that.

And lying’s kind of fun too.

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To mention you hate cilantro in mixed company, which is to say any company really, is to immediately incur the fierce judgment and opposition of many.

When you say you hate cilantro–you might as well say you hate the Virgin Mary herself–it is that offensive to those that love, or even those that kind of like.

I recently had this experience on an conference call:

Me: “Oh, you have a window box garden. That’s tremendous. Tell me, what in it grows sir?”
Sir: “Cilantro”
Me: “Gross. Nothing else?”
Sir: “No, just cilantro, it’s a limited garden as yet.”
Me: “Indeed”
Conference Call Chorus: “I love cilantro.” “Me too. Who hates cilantro?” “It’s so refreshing.” “Yeah. It’s one of my favorite herbs.” “Exactly. It’s really good.” “Who doesn’t like cilantro.
Me: “I HATE CILANTRO is who… I have a whole blog about.”
CCC: laughs
Me: “No, for real….”

I would never begrudge the masses their relishing in something (they find to be) delicious of course. What’s funny, amazing, something to love as it were, is how impassioned the cilantro lovers are. I hear what you’re saying–I too, my lot, are similarly impassioned. Perhaps. But not without irony dammit. Have you seen the I Hate Cilantro site? It is irony incarnate. Those that like are so, well, genuine! But no need to judge, I’ve said my peace about cilantro lovers in the past…we all have our crosses to bear.

What’s fun is in an otherwise ordinary meeting, or say it’s a nice brunch looking for a little culinary discourse, or say it’s a conversation with a stranger in the checkout aisle you wish you could connect with (if only to argue)–hating cilantro is immediate grounds for a kind of good-hearted outrage-turned-understanding: We feel the same way, just but it’s the opposite, or something. Anyway, it’s fun to see people get so riled up about something they probably hadn’t given a ton of (any) thought to until it was suggested someone might hate it. Many times I feel I’m the first cilantro hater people have met. Cross to bear? No, it’s my privilege and honor.

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It appears I have “fans,” and these fans, if you will, have grown agree with me, disappointed, nonplussed.

Well, we can’t have that, can we?

I remember the feeling, when a certain friend of mine named James had quit writing in his always entertaining blog, I went through all, not some, of the 5 stages of grief. To review, they are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I have accepted that my friend James’s “career” has replaced his “blog” (indeed he did just help to elect our new president–an achievement that’s sheer awesomeness is ironic retort-proof, an achievement in its own right), but I cannot accept that mine (career) has replaced mine (blog). (It’s funny, I was complaining to my boyfriend how much David Foster Wallace’s () annoyed me, and yet...) Please loyal fans, go through but 4 stages of grief, rest on your depressive laurels and be ready for what I have to say next–I’m back and so too is my deep, serious hate of cilantro.

Perhaps an anecdote is in order.

Recently, in the blogless month of October, I took my first excursion abroad. I went to Paris, which is apparently the most touristed place in the world. Who knew? Apparently my friend’s father who was nice enough to share his apartment with us for a week, apparently he knew, pretty awesome.

What would stand out to many in Paris is how awesome the food is, and certainly this was not lost on me. Practically the entire purpose of my trip was to go to Paris, eat croissant and not check my email for 9 days. On all accounts, the trip was a success. But there is more to Paris than croissant of course–there are also macaroons (the best are at Pierre Herme), pan au chocolat, steak frites, everything in the world you could ever want with ham and cheese (omelet, croque monsieur, sandwich mixed, quiche, dear god it’s so good), and the list goes on. Of course there’s the cafe and the champagne and the wine and the wonderful fact that to imbibe is to live, to not hold your liquor a little is ok, and to not hold it a lot is just, well, it’s gauche, ok.

But it’s what Paris is not, of course, that makes it awesome. Paris is not a place one goes to feast on cilantro, though it disappointingly if not completely predictably is now present in the newer, nicer restaurants, the kind that are just like the newer nicer restaurants in New York except the menus are in French and the people are too. Since all the fancy New York places are run by chefs from France, well, it’s like buying Chanel shoes in Paris–sure you can, but what’s the fucking point? Which is to take nothing away from probably the best meal I’ve ever had and certainly the most expensive, the 12+ course affair at Pierre Gagnaire–Yummo! It was a pleasure to explain in broken French, oh who am I kidding, it was in English, when the waiter asked:

“Do you have any dietary restrictions, things you won’t eat, etc.?”
“Just hold the cilantro, please.”
“But you don’t have a problem with say foie gras, or frog legs or lightly poached oysters?”
“God know, what do I look like a freak?”
“Thank you madam, Chef will be most happy to prepare your meal sans cilantro”
“Merci monsieur.”

And so the meal was divine and, my friend Margaret did have a course featuring cilantro, while mine sported sorrel–cilantro haters really do win sometimes.

But it isn’t just the Michelin 3-stars that know how to cater to cilantro hate, it’s more importantly the bistros, the cafes, the brasseries (the real French food if you ask me) where you don’t even have to ask Chef to prepare you a special course, there simply isn’t any of the stuff in the house to begin with. So thank you Pierre, thank you nameless cafe and thank you Paris for nine days without an email, without a worry and without a trace of cilantro.

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One of the great things about vocally, perhaps pathologically hating cilantro is people are constantly offering cilantro anecdotes, testimonies, periodical features of interest. Many of these tidbits aren’t SO interesting after all, but some of them are.

My dear friend (I was going to call her “best friend” but didn’t want to step on any toes cuz for real I have several “best” friends. Then I thought “BFF” because it’s amusing as hell to me but I thought something in the intended tone might be lost on my audience: many of you I know like cilantro, and we all know what that means about your IQ.) and roommate has just moved to Rome/Cairo. She’s been in Cairo a few weeks now and one of the first things she tells me is she is surrounded by Cilantro. No, not the herb, the fucking cafe.

I know. As if. Well, apparently this chain of cafes is as ubiquitous in Cairo as suicidal cab drivers. The cafes, Dear Friend tells me, have internet connections, nice amenities, a quiet, relaxed ambiance and, you know, allow women. In other words, this is a Western-style chain standing in direct opposition to the segregated, loud, cheap and dirty ahwas, traditional Egyptian coffee shops.

It goes without saying that this is an outrage, but alas, Cilantro Cafe is but one of many businesses masquerading as restaurants with the audacity (or I’m sure what they all think of as hip, or edgy or just plain clever idea) to bear the name “Cilantro.” It’s not surprising with all the restaurants in the world some are bound to be named Cilantro; naming restaurants after food is pretty common (and stupid, if you ask me — thanks for asking) and cilantro, as we’ve established many times over, is everywhere.

What’s upsetting is that the biggest chain of coffee shops in all of Cairo is named after my nemesis. Or is it? I mean, is it really a term of distinction to be a coffee shop chain? Is it really so awesome to be the very Egyptian icon of Westernization and cultural atrophy? Dear Friend tells me she’d never spend any time there, that she’d really prefer to hang at the ahwas, but damnit, honky needs her wireless connection and the ice cubes next door might make her sick. Then there’s also the issue that she isn’t really allowed in those “realer” places, having tits and all. So, on that front Cilantro represents progress, of the good sort that creates the eponymous noun liberals prefer to call themselves; they allow women.

I have a tremendous amount of patience for other cultures, mostly because I recognize after 25 years in the US of America one I don’t know that culture is the kind of thing one can ever understand, but more to the point, I don’t like to be too judgmental — do whatever you want, please don’t kill my dog (I don’t have a dog). I have serious problems with religion, but, that’s with all of them, not a particular one. Most of my problems are rooted in the fact that people do irrational things that are objectively bad for themselves and everyone around them in the name of a god or spirit or faith that they don’t know exists. Yeah. That sounds a lot like a judgment to me too. Anyway, some of the worst forms of what I don’t like about religion involve violences and injustices against women, a group I’m (on the whole) pretty fond of. Genital mutilation (ha, you thought you were reading a cilantro blog), anti-birth control policies and a general limitation of that great word W loves to throw around — freedom — are but a few nuisances women have had to endure at the hands of “their” religions. Exclusion from public cafes would be another.

So, while I’m down with dirt and noise and all those authentic things Western travelers like to tell themselves they like so they can have authentic experiences, in the end I value the kind of progress that allows a woman to order a fucking cup of coffee. And if that kind of place goes by the name Cilantro…. Point for cilantro.

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How’s this for a mantra: What would Julia do?

If you’re a fan of Julia Child, you probably don’t need me to ex
plain to you why you are. You probably like her easy camera presence, her unpretentious instruction of classic French technique, her contagious lust for life, her general bad-assness, and, if your like me, her unapologetic liberal politics and unique brand of feminism. Truly, she was a magical woman so nearly unanimously revered in the culinary and general American communities, I’d have to wonder if you were a heartless freak not liking her.

What you might not know is that Julia Child hated cilantro; an excerpt from a Larry King interview transcript:

KING: A little bit. Any food you hate?
CHILD: Well, badly cooked food…

ING: I know that. But any – for example, George Bush and yours truly, I don’t want to couple it together, hate broccoli, hate it, wouldn’t go near it, wouldn’t touch it, what do you hate?
CHILD: I don’t like cilantro.

KING: What is that?

CHILD: It’s an herb that it has a kind of a taste that I don’t like.

KING: Is there an everyday food you hate, like broccoli?

CHILD: No, I don’t think so. I mean, if it’s properly cooked and properly served, I can’t think of anything I hate.

: So you’ll eat…

CHILD: Except cilantro and arugula I don’t like at all.

KING: Arugula?

CHILD: They’re both green herbs, they have kind of a dead taste to me.

KING: So you would never order it.
CHILD: Never, I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.

Arugula, I like, but someone running the I Hate Arugula blog (doesn’t exist) can use that piece of trivia. It’s the cilantro I’m concerned with. I like how she describes the taste of cilantro as “dead.” That’s a much stronger descriptor than say, soapy. “Well, why don’t you like it?” “It tastes dead.” That’s a pretty good reason not to like something in my book. Hilarious. Another reason to love Julia: girlfriend was funny.

I think Julia Child hating cilantro sort of speaks for itself, so I’ll be brief today. But I can tell you this, in the spirit of doing as Julia would do, the next time I encounter unexpected cilantro, I will pick it out, throw it on the floor and smile, thinking of Julia doing the same.

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