Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cilantro-haters unite!

"I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor." — Julia Child, in an interview describing cilantro

I'VE MENTIONED in a couple of blog posts that I really, REALLY hate cilantro. You may not. But in either case — love it or hate it; it's not your fault.

It's genetic. Seriously.

Those of us who hate cilantro have a gene (or maybe several of them) that allows us to taste flavors in cilantro that other people can't taste. If you like or at least don't mind cilantro, it's because you can't taste what we do.

I've attached an explanation from The New York Times written by Harold McGee.

But before you read it, here's a thing that's so funny that it just might keep me in a good mood all day! There's actually a website for cilantro haters! It's — and I really am LOLing out loud as Tony Shalhoub once said in an episode of Monk.

Did I register? You betcha! Cilantro haters unite!

BTW: I've also attached a list from of the many (awful) ways cilantro tastes to those of us who can taste what it really tastes like. You'll notice some common themes, but none of them good.

Cilantro Haters, It’s Not Your Fault
By Harold McGee
April 13, 2010
FOOD partisanship doesn’t usually reach the same heights of animosity as the political variety, except in the case of the anti-cilantro party. The green parts of the plant that gives us coriander seeds seem to inspire a primal revulsion among an outspoken minority of eaters.

Culinary sophistication is no guarantee of immunity from cilantrophobia. In a television interview in 2002, Larry King asked Julia Child which foods she hated. She responded: “Cilantro and arugula I don’t like at all. They’re both green herbs, they have kind of a dead taste to me.”

“So you would never order it?” Mr. King asked.

“Never,” she responded. “I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.”

Ms. Child had plenty of company for her feelings about cilantro (arugula seems to be less offensive). The authoritative Oxford Companion to Food notes that the word “coriander” is said to derive from the Greek word for bedbug, that cilantro aroma “has been compared with the smell of bug-infested bedclothes” and that “Europeans often have difficulty in overcoming their initial aversion to this smell.” There’s an “I Hate Cilantro” Facebook page with hundreds of fans and an I Hate Cilantro blog.

Yet cilantro is happily consumed by many millions of people around the world, particularly in Asia and Latin America. The Portuguese put fistfuls into soups. What is it about cilantro that makes it so unpleasant for people in cultures that don’t much use it?

Some people may be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro, according to often-cited studies by Charles J. Wysocki of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. But cilantrophobe genetics remain little known and aren’t under systematic investigation. Meanwhile, history, chemistry and neurology have been adding some valuable pieces to the puzzle.

Modern cilantrophobes tend to describe the offending flavor as soapy. I don’t hate cilantro, but it does sometimes remind me of hand lotion. Each of these associations turns out to make good chemical sense.

Flavor chemists have found that cilantro aroma is created by a half-dozen or so substances, and most of these are modified fragments of fat molecules called aldehydes. The same or similar aldehydes are also found in soaps and lotions and the bug family of insects.

Soaps are made by fragmenting fat molecules with strongly alkaline lye or its equivalent, and aldehydes are a byproduct of this process, as they are when oxygen in the air attacks the fats and oils in cosmetics. And many bugs make strong-smelling, aldehyde-rich body fluids to attract or repel other creatures.

The cilantro aldehydes are olfactory Jekyll-and-Hydes. Why is it only the evil, soapy side that shows up for cilantrophobes, and not the charming one?

I posed this question to Jay Gottfried, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University who studies how the brain perceives smells.

Dr. Gottfried turned out to be a former cilantrophobe who could speak from personal experience. He said that the great cilantro split probably reflects the primal importance of smell and taste to survival, and the brain’s constant updating of its database of experiences.

The senses of smell and taste evolved to evoke strong emotions, he explained, because they were critical to finding food and mates and avoiding poisons and predators. When we taste a food, the brain searches its memory to find a pattern from past experience that the flavor belongs to. Then it uses that pattern to create a perception of flavor, including an evaluation of its desirability.

If the flavor doesn’t fit a familiar food experience, and instead fits into a pattern that involves chemical cleaning agents and dirt, or crawly insects, then the brain highlights the mismatch and the potential threat to our safety. We react strongly and throw the offending ingredient on the floor where it belongs.

Cilantro-Haters Describe How Cilantro Tastes to Them

- Soap
- Soap-flavored soap
- Soap, the cheap, dish-detergent kind 
- Soapy dishwater 
- Soap and baby puke
- Bitter soap, but worse
- Dirty soap
- Ivory soap
- Irish Spring soap
- Purpose face soap covered with onions
- Soapy pennies
- Soapy flannel
- Soap marinating in rubber cement
- Soap, mould, kerosene, cod liver oil and burned rubber
- Soapy lawn clippings
- Soapy, dark dirt
- Powdered soap and metal shavings
- Rancid, metallic soap
- A poisonous mix of Ivory soap, burned brake fluid, skunk, stink bugs and decomposing fish 
- Dish soap
- Palmolive dish soap
- Joy dishwashing detergent
- Dishwashing detergent
- Washing up liquid
- Lemon washing up liquid
- Laundry detergent
- Dirty dish water
- Old dirty dishrags
- Bath water
- Dirty water

- Moldy rags
- Moldy carpet
- A moldy swimsuit that's been left to fester in a high school locker
- Really old, damp socks with extra mold
- A moldy shoe with extra mold
- Mildew
- Spicy, dirty, mildewed laundry
- Musty basement

- Foul, minty, noxious chemicals
- Cleaning chemicals
- Comet cleanser
- Minty fresh turpentine only more pungent and less palatable
- Grapefruit sprinkled with kerosene and sprayed with mint to try to cover the taste
- Kerosene and mint
- Like kerosene smells
- Gasoline
- Chlorine
- Turpentine
- Paint thinner
- Battery juice
- Battery acid mixed with bleach, rubbing alcohol ammonia and rancid butter
- Like putting your tongue on a 9-volt battery
- Pesticide
- Bug spray
- Toxic metal cleaner
- Tastes like car exhaust smells
- A diesel fuel explosion

- Plastic
- Plastic, lemon and feet
- Burnt plastic and blood
- Latex
- Burnt rubber
- Burnt rubber, dirt and metal combo
- Inside of a freshly cut-open rubber ball
- Worn out rubber bands
- Metal
- Aluminum foil
- Water, dirt, metal, and plant combined
- Rancid, metallic green perfume
- Grass and nickels
- Smell of old coins
- Licking a handful of dirty change
- Grass flavored snow cone with rusted iron sprinkles

- Blood
- Ear wax
- Vomit
- Poop, plastic and soap mixed
- A bag of hair with an onion inside on fire
- Feet wrapped in leathery, burnt bacon
- Cat pee
- Bat shit
- Wet dog
- Mule urine and soap soaked weeds
- Skunk
- Stink bugs

- Rotting vegetables mashed with rotting stinkbugs
- Putrid horrible greens
- Something rotten
- Rancid corpse sprinkled with rotting garbage
- Rotten eggs
- Rotting meat
- Garbage babies 

- Black licorice
- Old leather furniture
- Pencil shavings
- A burnt vacuum cleaner belt mixed with cat pee and soap
- Toy fire truck
- Doll hair
- Scotch tape
- Bitter blanket
- A cigarette if you ate it
- Gym socks
- Wet underwear
- An envelope seal
- Dirty kitchen sponge fragment
- Sucking on a dryer vent
- Perfume
- Cheap cologne
- Wet hair with cheap shampoo lathered in
- My Spanish grandma's Christmas potpurri

- Dirt
- Mud
- Soil and roots
- Compost
- Dandelions
- Pungent foul weeds
- A clump of dried lawn-clippings seasoned ever so slightly with Pine-sol

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