Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Cilantro Haters Not At Fault ?

The New York Times has an interesting piece on of all things, prejudice towards the herb cilantro:

Food partisanship doesn’t usually reach the same heights of animosity as the political variety, except in the case of the anti-cilantro party. The green parts of the plant that gives us coriander seeds seem to inspire a primal revulsion among an outspoken minority of eaters.

Culinary sophistication is no guarantee of immunity from cilantrophobia. In a television interview in 2002, Larry King asked Julia Child which foods she hated. She responded: “Cilantro and arugula I don’t like at all. They’re both green herbs, they have kind of a dead taste to me.”

“So you would never order it?” Mr. King asked.

“Never,” she responded. “I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.”{...}

Some people may be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro, according to often-cited studies by Charles J. Wysocki of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. But cilantrophobe genetics remain little known and aren’t under systematic investigation.

Modern cilantrophobes tend to describe the offending flavor as soapy rather than buggy. I don’t hate cilantro, but it does sometimes remind me of hand lotion. Each of these associations turns out to make good chemical sense.

Flavor chemists have found that cilantro aroma is created by a half-dozen or so substances, and most of these are modified fragments of fat molecules called aldehydes. The same or similar aldehydes are also found in soaps and lotions and the bug family of insects.

This is freaky because, speaking personally, I love cilantro.I buy it fresh and use it whenever I can in Asian, Mexican or fusion-type dishes. You'd love my fragrant chicken soup with pineapple, bean sprouts, white meat chicken, tomatos and fresh cilantro and chiles as a topping. I'd certainly never characterize the aroma as 'buggy' or 'soapy', although I can certainly see why Julia Child, who metier is in French cooking might not care for it.

Oddly enough, speaking of genetics, while both my wife and I love the flavor of cilantro, neither of our kids do. Go figure.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It supposedly has some antibacterial properties. I can take it in moderate amounts, too much and I do taste the soapiness of it.