Friday, October 9, 2009

Let's Talk About Cilantro

For years, I was paranoid. Extremely paranoid.

I’d take a bite of the gourmet concoction that was a feature of the Ford Foundation’s employee salad bar, and that would be the end of that course. (I actually would become frightened by what I had just tasted.)

I’d dip a tortilla chip into some guacamole (after my then-husband and I had moved to California), and I’d think, “okay, I really, seriously don’t like avocado.”

I’d spit a full forkful of an Indian dish into a napkin, knowing there was no way it could go further in the other direction…

And then one day, in the early ‘90’s, at the first of several L.A. nonprofits that would welcome me to their staff, I walked into the employees’ kitchen …

Joie was in there, chopping a large bushel of something green. I took a whiff, and I immediately exclaimed, “That’s what I hate! What is that?”

“Cilantro,” she replied.

What a relief to know that this green thing had a name and that it actually was a “food product” that people really liked. For years, I was convinced that some weird underground of disconnected evil types was just hell-bent on poisoning me!

Taste is a strange thing (and I’m talking only about food at the moment). Regarding cilantro, I was relieved to learn – through a dialogue I recently heard on public radio – that there’s actually a gene that makes one extremely adverse to the herb.

It’s good to have that excuse.

Regarding my other food aversions, I can’t really claim some genetic predisposition.

I recently participated in a wonderful meal event that was inspired by the movie, Julie & Julia. My friend, Maria, found a bunch of Julia Child recipes, gave us all shopping lists, and invited us over to begin the cooking at 3:00 in the afternoon. It was better than Thanksgiving. It was awesome. Those of us who contributed to the prep (i.e., the women) made things we had never made before. (We became chefs!)

I also appreciated that, during the planning, Maria had conveyed to others my aversion to mushrooms.

Her comment, apparently, had stayed in some memories. At a certain point, during the hours of prep, one of the Julie/Julia’s was slicing vegetables.

“Katie,” she asked, “do you do mushrooms?”

“Oh my,” I laughed. “Not in thirty years!”

(One of the husbands, who was washing some of the meal-prep dishes, chuckled then.)

I closed the fridge and explained myself. “It’s not an allergy,” I said. “It’s just… I don’t know. It’s like, one time, in the restaurant where I used to work – in midtown Manhattan – a tourist couple was in one of my booths. From Europe, probably. Anyway, they weren’t fluent in English. So when the man pointed to the menu – to the listing for Spinach and Mushroom Quiche – and he asked, ‘Vat eez mushroom?’, I swear for the life of me, all I could think was, It’s a fungus that grows in cowshit.”




Hands down, given the choice, I’d rather have that fungus that grows in cowshit than that poison they call cilantro!

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