March 18, 2006
I suppose I should consider myself one of the lucky ones. I managed to avoid all contact with cilantro for the first eighteen years of my life. This is largely due to two accidents (or blessings, if you will) of my childhood. 1) I was born Korean, to a traditional Korean family, eating traditional Korean food, i.e., nary an opportunity to see cilantro, much less taste it; and 2) I grew up in a suburb of New Jersey, surrounded only by non-cilantro eating peoples (mostly Italians & Irish, a few Japanese & Koreans).
Then I got to college. In California. In case you are not aware, California is the cilantro capital of America. It happened in the dining hall. I can still remember, it was a creamy pasta dish, something akin to Fetuccine Alfredo. Yet there were little green flecks of plant matter in it. "Well," I thought to myself, "it's just the cook trying to be a little creative with his Italian herbs. A little parsley never hurt anyone!"
Oh, the horror. The horror.
Having never been exposed to the vile weed, I had no idea what was causing that awful taste in my mouth. I logically assumed that the cafeteria staff simply had not bothered to thoroughly rinse my plate during the last washing, and therefore soap was left on it. After one or two more disgusting run-ins with the C-bomb, I realized it was not the result of careless dishwashing. But the nightmare still had not come to an end.
Because I didn't know what cilantro was, I didn't know what it was called, and therefore I COULD NOT KEEP IT OUT OF MY FOOD! For years I suffered because I did not know the name of my enemy.