May 30, 2006
The REAL "C-word"
Is it me? Or, did cilantro seem to burst on the scene in the 1990s? (I won't ask where it was before that because I DON'T want to know.)
My first cilantro experience came at a Thai restaurant in Hawaii. My brother & I--both 20-something at the time--were dining together. We ordered an interesting-sounding soup as a starter. This was Mistake #1. (Eating it was Mistake #2.) It arrived & we each ladled some out into our bowls. What transpired next was epic. We took our near-simultaneous first sips & shared a "moment." By this I mean to say that the same horrified look passed across each of our faces at the same time. The look begged the question, "What in God's name IS that horrid flavor??" (We may have even uttered variations on this question aloud.)
The other overriding flavor in the soup was lemongrass. It was like dueling banjos of distaste. We choked down a few swallows apiece just to be polite. We nicknamed that soup, "Pledgearrhea." This word's prefix refers to a popular brand of furniture polish, & the suffix to... well... cilantro.
The word "pledgearrhea" has since lived on in infamy in our family. Used generically to describe ANY awful flavor--but usually any awful flavor caused mainly by cilantro--it has successfully crossed over from a neologism into everyday use. I encourage you to adopt it into your own lexicons as well.
My second experience with cilantro came in a Chinese restaurant, AGAIN with the soup! This time, upon my first sip I could not restrain myself from calling out, "Oh my God! It tastes like raw sewage!" much to the chagrin of my tablemates (co-workers & a boss, no less). What can I say? The distaste engendered by cilantro was more important in that moment than any job. You understand.
This brings me to my penultimate point. The words we cilantro-haters use to describe its taste are unusual in that, has anyone here ever actually eaten: soap, doll hair, burnt rubber, shoes, plastics, tin foil, furniture polish, diarrhea, or raw sewage for that matter? Has anyone ever actually "sucked on a penny"?? And when those stray gobs of shampoo trickle down into the corners of your mouth in the shower, don't you just wash them out instantly? How is it that we can use the names of things classically inedible to describe cilantro? What I have come to understand, thanks this supportive community, is that if you hate cilantro, it's that easy.
Last thoughts. 1)If I'm feeling strong, I can torture myself to go up to cilantro in a grocery store & sniff it. It actually triggers the gag reflex in me. It gives me a headache and ruins my day. Masochistic, I know. 2)The Americanization of cilantro--now seemingly EVERYWHERE--has led me to change the way that I order Mexican food. I've always been something of a salsa whore, but I now have to forcefully mandate, "NO PICO!" 3)Where is ihatecardamom.com?? My horror stories surrounding this other soap analog are also legendary--right down to believing with all my heart that the kitchen had accidentally dropped a hotel-sized mini soap cake into the curry at an Indian restaurant, which I then bit into. Is it me, or do others here taste a STRONG, horrid similarity between cilantro & cardamom?
Thanks for listening. Thanks for sharing YOUR stories. Glad to know that I am not alone out there.