January 17, 2008
I am Chinese, and my parents have used cilantro in many dishes I have had to eat. My parents never knew the English name for any herbs. They generically referred to all greens as "chai."
I could avoid the soups they contaminated with it, but I couldn't avoid the main courses they made because they were really strict about cleaning off my plate. I would pick them out and surreptitiously hide the bits in my napkin.
One day my dad reheated some left overs for lunch. I started eating and was hit by a horrible detergent taste. I asked my dad if he washed the dish out properly and he just got angry, and told me, "of course I washed it." Thinking back on it, it must have been the disgusting cilantro, it's taste tainting the tupperware and being amplified to a horrible magnitude when microwaved.
I had always assumed that it was some kind of mint or chives gone wrong. A few years ago I was at a Tex/Mex restaurant with my boyfriend and they had free salsa. I was thrilled. I loved salsa and free appetizers was a bonus. When they brought it out, I enthusiastically scooped a nice chunk onto a chip.
Disgust. That is all I can say. Absolute disgust. I almost spit it out, but I didn't want to be embarrassing. I told him that I thought there was this particular herb that I couldn't stand, "mint or chives or something... You don't taste it?" He was eating the salsa like it was fine. He said, "You mean, cilantro?"
When I heard the word I knew that was what it was. Don't ask me how, but I knew. The word emanated repugnance.
Cilantro has bred in me a deep sense of distrust in salsa and Mexican/Chinese/Indian food. Distrust in my own culture. It is a travesty.