It was while dining at a paladar in Havana that I discovered that I no longer had to keep my secret. As a dedicated gourmand, I love food. I enjoy reading about, planning, and preparing all manner of dishes using a wide variety of herbs and spices. And eating! Oh, yes. In fact, I think my internist would prefer I eat a little less of these creations.
There is little I don’t like.
But I was embarrassed to admit as an avowed foodie that there is one thing I absolutely cannot tolerate: fresh cilantro. And it was at that paladar in Havana that I found not just one, but several soul-mates. How the subject actually came up in conversation I don’t recall, but one of my fellow travelers mentioned that his wife thinks the stuff tastes like soap.
“Yes!” I practically shouted with relief. I had never been able to put my finger on why I thought of bug spray every time I would partake of certain dishes with the green stuff sprinkled on top.
It appears there may be a genetic predisposition to herb hatred, and that my ancestors may have developed the aversion for survival purposes. I have learned that the cilantro aroma is created by something called aldehydes, a substance also found in soaps and lotions. Early humans may have associated the smell with a negative past experience (like sickness or death) and developed the distaste for it .
Although cilantro is commonly used in the Middle East, where my ancestors came from
way back, the herb wasn’t native to the area and probably didn’t arrive ’til much later, when Arab merchants brought back all manner of spices from their journeys into Asia.
So, did great-great-great-great (etc.) grandma think the stuff tastes like soap? Just maybe she did. And just maybe I got her cilantro-loathing gene.
Curiously, I can and do use the dried herb liberally and have no problem at all with the seed of the plant – coriander. Maybe the smell dissipates with evaporation?
I’d love to hear from fellow cilantro-tastes-like-soap readers and learn what you substitute when a recipe calls for the vile green stuff.