January 30, 2007
It was the holiday season of my 18th year, and I was dinnering with my then-boyfriend's Puerto Rican family. Some delicacy was shipped from the homeland, and I was encouraged to try it. Having grown up in a household that experimented with such products as quail eggs and seaweed (this was in the early '80s, mind you), I had no immediate aversion. I ate two or three large pieces of the sausage, deciding that I neither liked nor disliked the dish.
I went back to my grandmother's house that evening and was immobilized with a cramped digestive track. I was in so much pain that I was afraid to talk, afraid to breathe, afraid to do anything that might exacerbate the pain or hasten my death. It sounds as though I'm being dramatic out of cilantro hatred, but these are distinct and painful memories. I laid on the floor with my feet on a chair for about four hours. I didn't move. My mom and my grandmother said nothing. At the end of the night, I was finally able to vomit and vomit and vomit. And vomit and vomit. I vomited for two hours. Exhausted, I put my wretched body to bed, torso wracked with pain still. The next day, I was extremely exhausted, feverish, and afraid to eat anything.
If it sounds to anyone like I had food poisoning, let me preclude that discussion now. Shortly after the holiday cilantro incident, I went with a date of questionable repute to my former favorite Mexican restaurant. Their fresh salsa, I saw anew, was mostly tomatoes and fresh cilantro. I couldn't quite eat it, even; I put a salsa-laden tortilla chip into my mouth only to eject it in the same movement. Nevertheless, I had the same reaction. And I've had the same reaction every time I've (foolishly) endeavored to overcome this aversion, which just yesterday was determined to be a food allergy. My name is Jenny, and I hate cilantro.