We Need To Talk About Cilantro

Cilantro can make even curry, one of my favourite meals, into the modern culinary equivalent of an unscented urinal cake.

Here’s the thing: cilantro is disgusting.

It is.

I’m not sorry if I offended you and your love of your precious soap weed, whose presence makes a dish taste as though the chef accidentally used palmolive instead of olive oil.

You won’t get an apology out of me, either. If you keep reading, you’re just going to get increasingly florid descriptions of the way cilantro can make even curry, one of my favourite meals, into the modern culinary equivalent of an unscented urinal cake.

Cilantro is utterly, unforgivably vile.

Are you still here? I have to admit I’m surprised. A study back in 2012 found that I’m in the minority in thinking that cilantro and toilet duck are in the same class of edibility. It’s not everyone that thinks ciantro is better suited for the torture chamber than the kitchen table, or who thinks that you could probably save salt and till the soil of your enemies’ lands with cilantro if you wanted to poison it for untold generations to come.

Apparently, “the prevalence of [people who understand that, in a list called “things you should add to food,” cilantro should probably be ranked somewhere near botulism] ranged from 3 to 21%. The proportion of subjects classified as disliking cilantro was 21% for East Asians, 17% for Caucasians, 14% for those of African descent, 7% for South Asians, 4% for Hispanics, and 3% for Middle Eastern subjects.”

Among white people (which I am—I can only take my shirt off in daylight if everyone around me is wearing eye protection), fewer than one in five of us would willingly exchange the worldwide fungal blight on bananas for one that forever destroyed the world’s cilantro crop. And that’s up in the high end.

But you know what? I still think we’re right, here.

Evidence is starting to pile up that the reaon you people like cilantro? The reason you don’t think that cilantro should be added to tide pods and lead paint to prevent children from eating them, the reason you don’t think that it’s an utter injustice that it was garlic, and not cilantro, that was chosen as something nasty enough to repel vampires, is simply that you can’t actually taste it. Not really.

Another study seems to suggest that “one of a cluster of olfactory receptor genes, perhaps OR6A2, may be the olfactory receptor that contributes to the detection of a soapy smell from cilantro in European populations.” And yet another found “new associations … between [recognizing cilantro for the chemical and biological weapon of food destruction it is] and variants in three genes (TRPA1, GNAT3, and TAS2R50).

It’s not like we’re the ones who can’t taste how “wonderful” cilantro is. It’s not like we’re missing something that lets us taste this “god’s gift to the kitchen.”

It’s that you can’t properly taste how utterly despicable your toxic nazghul catnip really is. You don’t have the sensors for it.

Well lucky you.

Lucky. Lucky. You.

I didn’t ask for this superpower. I didn’t ask to know that god invented a weed whose taste can at best be described as “not technically a war crime.” I didn’t stand in line for the ability to know that there are things in this world that have a taste that’s about as pleasant as a case of the shingles. I didn’t volunteer.

So fine, go ahead and ruin your guacamole with it. Throw it into your green thai curries as though you wouldn’t have been just as productively served by using the prep time to dislocate your fingers one by one. Put it on everything. Make the world taste like a giant green tidal wave of stygian detergent and unbelievable disappointment.

Just don’t expect an apology when I politely decline your offer to share.

Signed: The Remixologist

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Photo source: Henrique Pinto, CC0