Friday, August 15, 2008

Chinese Confession - Cilantro

For the most part, I consider myself to be a very non-picky eater. I really appreciate good food, but at the same time, I can find the good in a lot of food. At times it can be problematic – for example, when trying to decide what restaurant to eat at with friends. Even that isn’t usually much of a problem though.

One thing I do more and more frequently request is that we don’t go to a place that puts cilantro in their food. It’s something that I’ve been emphasizing ever since I first got to China. They put a lot of cilantro in a lot of food in Shanghai, and seemingly in a lot of Chinese food in general. When I go out to eat with people, normally my only request is that the food not have cilantro. This is the same whether I’m in China, the US, or wherever. As long as there is no cilantro in the food, I am good to go. If someone is making Mexican food, I plead for them to not add any. For quite a while I thought that perhaps this made me more of a picky eater than anybody else. I seemed to be the only person I knew that really disliked it. Just thinking about it makes a grimace break out across my face and practically ruins my appetite. I couldn’t understand why so many people would like it, yet I would find it so utterly vile and repulsive. Even more, people usually had a complete look of shock when they found out just how much I hate the stuff.
As time went on, I started to consider that maybe cilantro just tastes a bit different to me than everyone else. I didn’t think much of it, though, and merely contented myself to avoid it as much as possible.

Well, last night I finally learned something that shed a lot more light on this whole cilantro ordeal. While playing our weekly game of trivia at a pub in town, one of the trivia questions related to this peculiar herb. As I am pretty vocal about my disliking of cilantro, I was talking with my friends about it. Then MC of the game mentioned as a side note that some people have an enzyme that makes cilantro taste like soap.

*Metaphorical smack in face with a frozen turkey*

It all fell perfectly into place. I couldn’t really describe what it was about the taste of cilantro that I hate so vehemently, but I just didn’t see how people could like to add it to food. It had such a powerful flavor that seemed so unnatural and didn’t mix with or compliment any of the other foods it was served with. No matter how powerful something would normally taste, if it had even a tiny spec of cilantro on it, that would be all I could taste and it would make me gag and want to spit it out.

Finally! I have a fully justifiable reason to use when I ask people, as kindly as possible, to not put cilantro in food. I have this enzyme!

So, in case you can’t quite relate, just picture yourself sitting down to eat some Mexican, Chinese, or Indian food that smells really, really good. Take a bite and chew it for a second or two, then reach down and grab a bar of soap, put it in your mouth, and take a nice big bite. Voila! Now you know what cilantro tastes like to me, and now you know why I can’t help but grimace at the very thought of eating something containing it.

If you want more information, just check it out on Wikipedia:

Also, when I was researching this a bit online, I came across some humorous things other people say cilantro tastes like:

* Aluminum foil
* Air freshener
* It tastes like a migraine
* It tastes like hitting yourself in the head
* It tastes like how a closet might smell
* It tastes like shoes
* Powdered soap and metal shavings
* Stink bugs (this one is most accurate in my book)
* Soapy lawn clippings
* A moldy swimming suit that’s been left to fester in a high school locker

One woman on a site ( who moved from Southern to Northern Brazil said she lost 17 pounds because she “couldn’t eat the cilantro-laden food.”

I checked on facebook and there is even a group dedicated to those who hate cilantro as much as I do! I just couldn’t resist posting some of their pictures on here.

Finally, I can find rest for my weary soul simply knowing that I’m not the only person in the world who absolutely cannot, cannot, cannot stand cilantro.

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