Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday Reruns: Let's Talk About Cilantro

(original postdate: October 9, 2009)

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 averse 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.

Taste.

Weird.

But?

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

11 comments:

Cheryl said...

So that's what I hate! I knew it had a name just wasn't sure which herb it was. Also, curry. 'Shrooms if raw are okay. If cooked, I can always move them off to the side. It's not the taste, it's the consistency. Rubbery like squid.

Jayne Martin said...

What a fun idea for a party. I'm not much of a cook at all. At potlucks my friends always designate me to just bring the bread.

Love fresh chopped mushrooms on my salad. Cilantro - eh.

Joann Mannix said...

I don't understand why cilantro isn't kicked to the curb. Everyone hates it. It tastes like dish soap. It's so overpowering and just not good. I also hate tarragon.

Martha Gates-Mawson said...

I like cilantro, I don't like it to be overpowering. The homemade salsa at my local Mexican is normally really delicious - but sometimes they go overboard on the cilantro and I have to pick it out. I also love Indian food (where the offending herb is normally referred to it by its other name - coriander), but again, don't like to be too heavy. I adore mushrooms in any way, shape, or form.

Jules said...

I'm allergic to shrooms and have no preference on cilantro. But I do love to cook just don't make me follow a recipe :D
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Deb Shucka said...

My brother has that cilantro thing, says it tastes like soap. It's one of my favorite flavors.

Not too many foods I won't eat, or can't enjoy. It might be a good thing if there were a few more. :-)

deborahjbarker said...

Hmmm, I can't eat peppers or bananas though I actually love both.(They make me rather ill.) I like mushrooms but not in great quantities and don't know if I have ever had cilantro.(I suspect I'd rather not)but, but but - I just cannot stand goat's cheese, not the taste nor the smell...pleeeeease deliver me from goat's cheese.

OJ Gonzalez-Cazares said...

I LOVE cilantro! you can use it raw, as garnish for tacos, or for salads, in ceviche,or cooked in soup, or in green salsa, or blended with sour cream and jalapenios for a tasty dip! (ok I went all Bubba-Gump shrimp on it); I am not to crazy about mushrooms, especially portobello - they have a funky after taste.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Taste IS a weird thing...

Until about 10 years ago, I hate mayonnaise. When I ate a BLT, I would butter the toast. I avoided mayonnaise like the plague.

Then when I went to France, I had homemade mayonnaise (my sister handwhipped it, right there in front of my eyes) and it was heavenly. Now I love mayonnaise (much to my hips' dismay).

I actually like cilantro, and put it in my chili, along with pineapple. My grandfather used to say, "That's why they have 6 different kinds of pie in a restaurant." Everybody's taste is different.

(I ADORE your description of what a mushroom is, even thought I also love mushrooms...)

Linda Medrano said...

I used to hate cilantro. Then I learned to love cilantro. It's a funny seasoning. I really love the smell of it and that tang! I used to gag even hearing the name. So, I'll ask you in 20 years or so.

BECKY said...

I'm not sure I know what cilantro is, or if I've ever eaten it! But, mushrooms, I can say I'm very choosey about. I only like raw ones for salads, and they have to have a certain "look" about them...Other than that...I'm really not a picky eater!