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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category


Look, if I could consult Alex Brands, General Biology Post-doc/Fellow at Lehigh University, on everything I would, but I can’t. Luckily, however, the man has plainly laid it out on the table when it comes to the cilantro hate gene myth. So, he doesn’t call it a myth, as such, but he does say that the gene’s existence has NOT been proven:

A google groups search confirms that you are not alone, as there are plenty of
testimonials from people to whom cilantro tastes like soap. There is no mention of
this in the Genetics textbooks I checked, and I did a PubMed search of the primary
research literature, but that came up empty. The short answer is: no one knows (if
they do, they haven’t told anyone)

So, Mr. Brands does go on to say the soap gene thing would be a reasonable hypothesis, but that given the current state of science funding in this country it will probably never be proven. So, while it might seem like the post-doc is favoring the idea that there is such a gene, in the end he’s unable to find any conclusive evidence that there actually is one. So, what he calls a reasonable hypothesis, I’ll call pure conjecture.

Or worse. It seems to me that people want to think there is such a gene. That they’re born with a condition that prohibits them from enjoying something, that being born with such a condition makes it not their fault and ok somehow. But I wonder, what’s so wrong about not liking everything? I mean, hating cilantro so much makes everything else taste so much better; it’s all about juxtaposition. So, really, not liking just one thing (albeit a thing that is f#$&ing everywhere) is a relatively small price to pay for being able to then like everything else more. I HATE cilantro, but I LOVE oysters.

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Someone Who Isn’t Erin: Love the blog, but can’t get behind hating cilantro.

Erin: Thanks!; I don’t care.

SWIE: But, don’t you think other people should hate cilantro, want them to hate cilantro?

Erin: No, that’s the folks over at ihatecilantro.com (a group I will not be joining in the foreseeable future; although I do find their efforts impressive, their mission is not my own (there’s nuance to cilantro hate)).

SWIE: Word. You know, I hear there’s a cilantro hate gene…

Erin: Really, I hadn’t heard that.

SWIE: Oh yeah, totally. This guy I know was telling me th.. [interrupts]

Erin: I was kidding. I hear that a lot. I’m suspect.

SWIE: Because you’re paranoid?

Erin: No, because we’ve isolated, what, 4 genes? And one of those genes hates cilantro?

SWIE: Huh?.!

In the coming week or so I seek to prove this hypothesis through some research. Stay tuned.


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Cilantro Kills

So, cilantro kills bacteria. That’s according to scientists at the University of California Berkeley and the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, if you want to trust Cal-Mex science, which has always been my favorite flavor. More specifically, 11 of 13 isolated cilantro compounds that were studied were demonstrated to have some effectiveness against pathogenic bacteria, especially Salmonella choleraesuis (the thing that causes the thing you get when you have unprotected sex with raw poultry) and, more specifically, one of those compounds, dodecenal, was “particularly effective.” This is all according to the New York Times, but I’m sure anyone really interested could find the original journals, if one were into that sort of thing; I’m not into that sort of thing.

Interesting news? Sure. I was even on board with the Times’ seemingly objective reporting up until the point it declared “Eat Cilantro,” which was actually the title of the snippet, so I guess I really wasn’t ever really on board. I know what some of you cilantro lover, bacteria hater-types (poor fools) are thinking: I can eat something I love and kill something I hate? Win-win! Easy Killer. Let’s backup for a moment.

First, each year only 40,000 cases of Salmonella are reported and only 600 people die from it*. OK. So, that’s kind of a lot, as compared to, you know, rabies’ 6 annual deaths, which The Office handled with its usual sensitivity and grace. But, let’s not go turning into Salmonella alarmists here; if you really want to avoid the disease, you’ll do as the CDC recommends and avoid the following: raw meat, at-all pink meat, hollandaise, tiramisu, cookie dough, cross contamination and pet turtles. If you can find a reason to keep living without these things, I suppose cilantro might as well be a part of the miserable life you’ll be left with.

Second, as my cousin the doctor, whom I always refer to as my cousin, the doctor, frequently suggests, we’ve become positively scared shitless of bacteria, and that, perhaps more than anything, is why we’re always so sick. I like the idea that she’s right — because who wants to worry about everything all the time? — but since she has an MD next to her name, she must be. So, you know, the way I see it, cilantro with its whopping 11 compounds of bacteria fighting, is actually slowly killing not only the bacteria you hate, but also the person you try not to — you.

Third, many studies have basically shown in countless ways that fruits and vegetables tend to be really good for you. The nuances of these studies I tend to find, well, sort of irrelevant. We should do as Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) suggests, which is to eat food (ie carrots and mushrooms as opposed to vitamins that would seem to carry the “compounds” their originals definitely have in combinations that work and our bodies can accept) and as I would add, we should eat what we like and not what we don’t. We should also cultivate palates that enjoy broccoli (which scientists in Estonia have proved kills cancer every time it’s consumed) at least as much as, say, creme brulee, or our health will be pretty screwed. We should also probably quit telling each other what to do.

So, you know what? Eat Cilantro or Don’t eat cilantro, but just remember every time you take a bite, you might be killing someone.

*The CDC suggests that the estimate might be “thity” or more times greater, whatever that means.

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