March 02, 2015
I first tasted cilantro in Thai food at a dinner party in 2004. I was convinced that the servers in the kitchen had accidentally oversprayed the counters with a cleaning product or disinfectant, contaminating the food. I stopped eating immediately and tried to get my family to stop eating, but they refused because everything tasted good to them. Because they were so calm, I chose not to warn my hostess about the mishap, which I assumed had only ruined my meal. A few weeks later, I ate in a restaurant and encountered the same taste in Mexican food. I asked my lunch companion if she tasted the cleaner/disinfectant. She did not, and when I described the incident at the dinner party, she put two and two together explaining that both Thai food and Mexican food would contain cilantro. I later heard a piece on NPR about how a small percentage of people don't taste cilantro as an herb, but rather as a soapy chemical. I also tell people to leave it out of and off the food I order in restaurants, citing an allergy to it, and amazingly, the servers often tell me that they can't eat it either!