August 18, 2013
I remember the first time I encountered cilantro like it was yesterday. I was young, I'd say roughly 10 years old. We used to go out to eat a lot as a family, and our favourite Wednesday spot was the yacht club for curry night. We were early. The curries had all just been put out, completely fresh. I was feeling adventurous, so I decided on a curry I'd never heard of. I remember seeing the green, leaf-y looking thing on top, but I went for it anyway. My young, naive mind didn't know or care what this herb thing was. I piled my plate high. Rushed back to the table. Fork and knife in hand, I dug in.
And that's when it hit me.
This horrible, indescribable taste flooded my taste buds. It was an all out invasion and my tongue was the sole victim. I didn't know what to do. Do I swallow this? Do I spit it out? In the middle of this restaurant? Panicked and confused, I grabbed my Coke and took as many gulps as my little self could manage, flushing this atrocity down my throat and ridding it from my mouth.
But the taste remained!
That horrible, horrible taste!
I begged my mother and father for answers, wanting to know what this cruel herb was called and the easiest way to rid the world of its evil taste. But alas, their only answer was: "...Oh well I quite like it"
That hurt never left me.
I avoided cilantro like the plague for years.
Anything green and leafy looking that I could not identify was immediately branded cilantro and pushed to the side.
I would not let myself be put through that taste again.
Until I had dinner at my friend's house, circa 2008.
I should have known the danger I was in as soon as they told me what we were eating.
I should have seen it, should have anticipated what would happen next.
I was asked to help prepare the dinner.
I walked into the kitchen.
A strange, slightly familiar smell hit my nostrils, and I immediately felt a trickle of dread work its way through my spine.
But what was that smell? Why did I recognise it?
I looked down at the counter, at the ingredients laid out.
And there it was.
Lying there, bare, unforgiving.
If it had a face it would have been twisted into a smirk akin to Beelzebub himself.
I made my way over to the counter, not taking my eyes of this abomination I'd sworn as my enemy. The room seemed to darken, until it was just me and the cilantro, stuck in a warp in reality, ready to do battle.
I cannot remember who was told to cut the cilantro. My mind seems not to want to recall. But what I do remember, is looking down into the pot sitting on the oven, watching the few ingredients simmer, flakes of cilantro bubbling to the surface, hundred of them, expanding in growths filled with rancid air, rupturing from the pressure, like molten lava mottled with grassy slivers of this abhorrent curse.
The smell filled the air as we sat around the table, stagnating around my sticky, anxious body.
We began to eat. My natural sense of politeness, ingrained in me by my British heritage, overwhelmed me, and I reached for the spoon to serve myself the curry.
And there it lay, on my plate. And I ate.
It was agonising. Harrowing. And yet I had to eat it. I had to eat it all. I couldn't just leave it there, to sully my reputation in this house.
And I did.
I ate every last glob of this cilantro-filled curry.
And since that day I have made it my life's work to save people from this dreadful curse. I warn people of its presence in foods they may not otherwise have known contained cilantro.
I offer comfort and support for their bereavement if inflicted with an encounter from the herb.
People are understanding, and listen to my woes about cilantro.
I just hope that maybe, someday, somewhere, somebody will take a stand against cilantro once and for all, and unveil this hideous curse to those who have as yet been blind to it.
Not even once.