April 18, 2006
As the daughter of a midwestern mom whose only cooking spices included salt, pepper, and a bit of paprika, I never encountered cilantro growing up. On an exchange trip to Taiwan in college, I bit into a smoked tofu snack and almost gagged on the horrid, soapy, rotten taste of it. Since it wasn't the only culinary shock I experienced there (did anyone ever eat (or smell) "stinky tofu??"), I didn't really pay much attention. But a few weeks later I encountered the horrid taste again, this time with English-speaking friends, and they told me that I was tasting cilantro.
This happened about 15 years ago. At that time, it was fairly easy to exist in the Northeast without encountering cilantro (as I successfully did for about the first 20 years of my life). Now, however, it seems to be everywhere, not only in the usual cuisines that overuse it (Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican), but in other places as well. Even the tiniest speck of it can contaminate an entire mouthful for me, and I have sat miserably through many meals while my companions smack their lips on cilantro-y fare.
Recently I bought a bag of pre-washed salad greens "with fresh herbs," and was horrified to feel the sickening soapy film of cilantro spreading across my taste buds with the first bite. I tried to pick through the greenery to pluck out the offending weed, but there was too much of it, chopped finely and hiding in every crevice. I ended up tossing the whole bag, what a waste...