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.”
I’ve long considered cilantro, what we used to call coriander, to be the Steely Dan of herbs–you either love it or hate it. For the longest, I didn’t dig it at all, but since I’ve learned to appreciate and desire Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican cuisine, I’ve also learned to appreciate, and even crave, cilantro as well.
“I didn’t like cilantro to begin with,” [Jay Gottfried, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University who studies how the brain perceives smells] said . “But I love food, and I ate all kinds of things, and I kept encountering it. My brain must have developed new patterns for cilantro flavor from those experiences, which included pleasure from the other flavors and the sharing with friends and family. That’s how people in cilantro-eating countries experience it every day.”
“So I began to like cilantro,” he said. “It can still remind me of soap, but it’s not threatening anymore, so that association fades into the background, and I enjoy its other qualities. On the other hand, if I ate cilantro once and never willingly let it pass my lips again, there wouldn’t have been a chance to reshape that perception.”
[Photo Credit: Pinch My Salt]