Cilantro is the Sarah Palin of the food world. People either love it or hate it, and there’s rarely a middle ground. The herb is so divisive, it has a web page devoted to its disdain: ihatecilantro.com.
Everyone has that friend — the one who won’t eat salsa in a restaurant and who nearly throws up when they find it secretly hidden in their food. There are probably people who are legitimately allergic to cilantro, but I know more than a handful who fake the allergy just to avoid it. On the other side, there are eaters who can’t get enough of the herb, piling handfuls into soups and stir-frys for flavor.
Cilantro, or coriander, is native to southern Europe, northern Africa and southeastern Asia. It’s used in cooking throughout these countries, and is popular in Latin foods as well. All parts of the plant are edible, but it’s the seeds and leaves most commonly used for cooking. It pairs well with the spiciness often found in these countries’ cuisines, and adds an unmistakable flavoring iconic to many of the native dishes.
Cilantrophobes often blame their hatred on a gene, and the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia has gone as far to prove the dislike for coriander may be a predisposed condition. But, there is little comprehensive research on it, and articles in the New York Times and on National Public Radio argue that it’s more complicated than that.
People who don’t like cilantro report a soapy or buggy taste. Because the herb has aldehydes which are similarly found in soaps and lotion, that makes sense. There’s also a historic aversion to cilantro in parts of the world, according to the news articles, and this carries on culturally.
Some of the researchers say that people can actually be “trained” to like cilantro. But, if you ask anyone who hates it, that’s about as likely as Kanye and Kim Kardashian’s relationship working out. Just like Palin, there are few eaters switching teams in the coriander debate; it will remain a heated conversation at the dinner table and people will be passionate about their case.
I fall on the cilantrophile side of things — the more the better. Don’t hate! It certainly makes eating out easier, though only with certain friends. Here’s a simple and easy recipe for a Southern California-inspired dip, which includes cilantro and is always a party-pleaser (for those who like it).
Alex D’s Special Dip
1 15-ounce cans of black beans
1 ripe avocadoes
1 red onion
2 cups of chopped cherry tomatoes
1 cup of corn (better from the cob)
4 ounces of feta
Cilantro to taste
Juice of two fresh-squeezed limes
Dice onion, tomatoes and add to black beans. Add feta, cilantro and corn. Salt, pepper and add cilantro to taste, and then cover with lime juice. Mix all ingredients together and serve with chips or on a heated tortilla to make a veggie tostada.
Which side do you fall on? Send your love or hate of cilantro, or Palin, to firstname.lastname@example.org .