Let’s Talk About Cilantro

Cilantro coverLast week I wrote post about pork tacos with cilantro yogurt sauce for rollbamaroll.com. In one of the comments someone said they have the cilantro-tastes-like-soap curse. So do I, but I’ve always enjoyed the taste. It’s like lavender blended with oregano. Apparently among those with similar genetic predispositions, I am practically alone in my appreciation.

More accurately, my position earns scorn and hatred. People who hate this herb really hate it. The first thing you learn after a quick Google search of “cilantro soapy” is that if you are going to write an article or post about cilantro you must include the fact that when on Larry King Live, Julia Child was asked which foods she hated. La Child responded: “Cilantro and arugula I don’t like at all. They’re both green herbs, they have a kind of a dead taste to me.” and followed, “I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.” So I’ve done my duty.

This is cilantro on the floor per Julia Child. I know that the above looks the same, but that's cilantro on the kitchen table. Sorry for the confusion.

This is cilantro on the floor per Julia Child. I know that the above looks the same, but that’s cilantro on the kitchen table. Sorry for the confusion.

They despise it mightily. There’s a Facebook page.

But they’re in the minority. Per On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Cilantro is said to be the most widely consumed herb. Not bad for a lump of soap.

The offending compound is decenal, a fatty aldehyde common to both soap and orange peel. Apparently to various insects as well. Coriander, the seed from which cilantro leaves spring, shares a linguistic root with the Greek word for bedbug. It may be a minority, but they have a Freemason like reach.

Smashing helps, as does cooking. Both break down the decenal and leave a more neutral leafy green flavor. But what does that mean? As a fan of soapy lavander/oregano what is left when those tastes are gone? What makes you drive all the way back to the grocery store to exchange the flat leaf you accidentally bought for the cilantro you meant to buy because every grocer in America thinks it’s so damn funny to put the two virtually identical herbs side by side? What do people who don’t taste soap like about cilantro?



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