June 12, 2014
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The microwave told me my leftover hamburger helper was hot and ready to eat. I went office microwave to pick up the cheesy excellence waiting for me. When suddenly, from behind, I heard the door open. "Hey hey!" It was my boss, let's call her Josie, the preferred of my three supervisors. Smart, nice, great to look at, Josie was a lovely woman, and I loved having her over.
"I brought food! To share!" She said warmly, as I grabbed my leftovers from the microwave.
I saw the large Gladware container in her hands. A red, sloshing substance jiggled within. Chopped vegetables laid within.
"Shrimp cocktail!!! For everyone."
My eyes widened. Shrimp cocktail? I love shrimp cocktails. For the last two years I had been living the college student life. Macaroni, ramen, generic lunchmeats and wonder bread. The thought of luxurious shrimp brought a sensuous glisten to my taste buds in an instant.
Josie set the container down, it must have housed a half gallon of the rosy seafood delight. I had never seen such a quantity, in so modest a container no less, but I had eaten homemade food of Josie's before, and I had faith that the quality would be befitting of fine crystalware, rather than the red solo cup she was now spooning the treat into. I saw the onions, the avocados, the herbs and spices, I saw everything in that rich, velvet stew. But I focused on only the shrimp. Whole ones, halved ones, cubed ones, shrimps of all sizes and shapes, but all plump and tender. Nary a tail in sight. This was going to be a glorious feast.
But lo, the glory was to be short lived. I plunged a fork into my cup, piercing a whole shrimp, and scooped it upward. Lifting onions, avocado, and a good amount of spice laden red juice with it. I took my first bite. At that exact moment, I was struck by the greatest dismay I had felt since losing 1600 yen in a game of Pokemon Stadium II moments before. And make no mistake, I take Pokemon Stadium II very seriously. Staryu is just so overpowered. Why would a friggin echinoderm even know... nevermind.
THERE WAS CILANTRO IN THE SHRIMP COCKTAIL!
Not just a little. No no no, a slight taste of cilantro I could grin and bear. Focusing on the onions and shrimp to forget about it. But no, this was no ordinary cilantro. This was... Advanced Cilantro. There was so much of that heinous, rotten herb. That accursed green leaf, which has turned my stomach for as long as I have been eating. Always polluting salsas and poisoning the southwestern chicken salads my older sister had loved so much back in the day. I wonder if she still likes those. I haven't spoken to her in years, largely because of her reprehensible cilantro-tolerant lifestyle. There was no tolerating this.
This was an abomination. Shrimp cocktail is worth cherishing. It is meant to be enjoyed with friends as part of a night out, or made for two lovers to enjoy between sips of Cabernet on a romantic evening. Shrimp cocktail is not meant to harbor the bane of humanity, the Devil's Oregano, the stomach-churning, blood-curdling verdure we call cilantro. Josie, wicked poltergeist that she is, had seen fit to imbue this once respected dish with the ungodly spice, in an amount great enough to make it more akin to a hellish borscht from the realm of unspoken horrors than the classic cocktail I once knew.
This was simply too much. I set the cocktail aside. I picked at my hamburger helper while avoiding Josie's gaze. I let my other supervisors and one of my co-workers talk about their careers and family lives while I meekly returned to Pokemon Stadium II on the Twitch Stream. Eventually, Josie left to pick up her kids from school or soccer practice of whatever demonic herb garden they were presently tending. The other office-members returned to their days. Andie, whom I normally don't expect such ingenuity from, proved her worth in my eyes by dumping the majority of her "Cocktail" in the toilet before throwing away the cup. She put the leftovers in the small refrigerator upstairs, but silently, we both told ourselves that neither of us would ever take them back out. Such hell shall not be wrought on Man again, least of all by our hands.