Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Emporer's New Herb

Cilantro

You've got to love it. Or hate it. Cilantro is like Jesus in that way. People are generally at one extreme or the other about this herb, spice, whatever you want to call it. Personally, although I love Jesus, I hate Cilantro. So does my wife. So do a lot of other people.

Thus far I have been unable to find any reliable statistics on the subject. I did find one rather unscientific and informal survey, but my own inquiries on the subject have yielded similar results. It seems that most people actually like Cilantro, and I've got no problem with that whatsoever. I do, however, have a problem with the growing infiltration of this herb into popular culinary culture. There is a significant minority of people who don't just dislike it; we find it repulsive.

What other herb has a web site devoted to those who hate it?

Last month I went to Seattle to catch up with Microsoft, and was horrified to discover that almost everywhere I went, Cilantro was added to the food. Last week, I bought some Sam's Choice Chicken Enchiladas, and discovered that they too were infused with Cilantro. Yesterday I took my wife out to dinner at Applebee's, and sure enough, I had to pick through the menu and ask specifically in order to avoid the rank stuff, which tastes like ass to me, and leaves a lingering ass taste in my mouth for hours after consumption.

I used to like Mexican food. Now I have to be very careful. The disgusting weed is proliferating throughout popular culture, for whatever reason (influx of Mexicans, perhaps?), and some of us are reeling from the effects.

It seems that some people, due largely to the genetic makeup of their DNA, are not just turned off by the taste; we find it absolutely awful. This is nobody's fault; we are what we are. But what on earth would possess the purveyors of popular food to infuse this herb into an increasing palette of culinary creations?

Getting back to Jesus, who has always inspired controversy: For those of you that are offended by Jesus, imagining walking down the street and finding "Jesus Saves" signs everywhere you looked? That is what eating out (and increasingly, eating prepared foods bought from grocery stores) is like for us Cilantro haters.

My research reveals that my experience is not as uncommon as you Cilantro-lovers might think. Here are a few items I found this morning in my research:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=26&entry_id=9953
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nallr-9-SoU
http://wyn996.blogspot.com/2007/04/i-hate-cilantro.html
http://johnrobe.com/blog/?p=252
http://www.veggieboards.com/boards/showthread.php?t=17767
http://ask.metafilter.com/6529/
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Thai-Breaded-Chicken-Filets/Reviews.aspx
http://www.kerrianne.org/2005/12/cold_town_winter_in_the_city_b.php
http://www.suburbanperil.com/archives/2006/04/say_no_to_cilan.php
http://wyn996.blogspot.com/2007/04/i-hate-cilantro.html

That's quite a bit of controversy. Try it for yourself. Just type the words "hate Cilantro" into Google, and see what you get back.

So, considering the number of people to whom Cilantro tastes like ass, burnt rubber, soap, and the rest of the multitude of descriptions that I've found worldwide, why would it be so popular?

I conjecture that it is popular because of the "Emporer's New Clothes" syndrome. That story was not written about an Emporer, but about people. We have a tendancy to "follow the crowd," due to the social nature of our species, perhaps. So, when the Hoi Polloi, for whatever reasons they may have (and most of their motivations are suspect), proclaim that something is great, the Lemmings flock to the slaughter. This is of course, why I always say "Neither a Follower Nor a Lender Be."

I suspect that the motivation behind this particular piece of nonsense is political, meaning that it is most likely evil. But trends produced by purely political motives, and which are not productive of anything good, seem to eventually die a natural death. We can only hope.

Hey if you like Cilantro, use it! I have no problem with restaurants making it available by request, even. But for something which is so offensive to so many of us to be included in an increasing number of foods without even warning us, well, it's just going to hurt the business of those who practice it.

I remember when I was a kid, discovering that I absolutely loved garlic, and wondering why there was so little of it in foods produced for popular consumption. I found out that although most people like Garlic, most people also didn't want a whole lot of it in their food, for social reasons, which I don't need to describe. The purveyors of food would therefore tone it down, and you could of course add more if you liked. I had a similar experience with hot and spicy foods, which some people don't like at all, or are averse to for medicinal reasons. Sure, I wanted the hot stuff, but as long as it was available for me to add, I accepted it.

But those days, it seems, are being replaced (temporarily) by a culture that watches the Elite, and seems to like to follow them, regardless of how bad the food tastes.

Fortunately, this too, shall pass.

3 comments:

Bruce said...

Preach it, Brother Chutney. Down with the devil's weed.

Anonymous said...

PSH. daddy, i love cilantro

:)

i guess i won't be making you any of my homemade salsa anytime soon...

Vilas said...

'Chutney' not liking Cilantro (a.k.a. Coriander or Kothambir) is a sacrilege. It must be (Indian) Indian influence in Seattle area which might explain its widespread usage. It is used generously in (Indian) Indian cooking. We even have very delicious Cilantro/Coriander chutney. It is divine, brother. Cultivate the taste for it.