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Taster’s Cherce

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.

There’s a fun piece in the Times today by Harold McGee about how cilantro

“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]

Categories:  Bronx Banter  Taster's Cherce

Tags:  cilantro  steely dan

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1 RagingTartabull   ~  Apr 14, 2010 11:46 am

I'll never get how arugula got this reputation as the vegetable for, as Woody would say, "left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings" types. They've been using arugula in my family since forever, and we have family recipes for tripe and chicken feet. Theres really nothing "snobby" about it.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Apr 14, 2010 12:01 pm

No, just that it became in vogue with the foodies in the 80s so it gets a bad rap. Funny, but Radiccio became a high-end bitter veggie, where escarole is almost as good and WAY WAY cheaper. I'm still pissed that endives and especially leeks are so expensive here when they are common veggies. But they are imported so we pay out the nose.

3 Ben   ~  Apr 14, 2010 12:29 pm

put me in the love cilantro club. I add it to anything that might have cumin and it does wonders. open a jar of any old salsa, add a sprinkle of cumin and some chopped cilantor, presto! Fresh salsa.

I've learned to use it more sparingly than I might choose, cause yeah, some people really don't like it. It's great in thai food with that sweet apple cider vinegar sauce thiing. It's right up there for me with basil as something i smell in the store and immediatly want to start eating.

4 thelarmis   ~  Apr 14, 2010 12:58 pm

i guess i really am quirky. i'm pretty much a pickier eater, but the few times there's stuff here that people generally hate - like celery - i like. i LOVE cilantro! had it last night on a burrito and in the salsa. it's great in Vietnamese Pho bowls and Thai food.

i think it's awesome. i had NO idea it was a food of concern to most folks.

[3] i like basil, too.

hope RI sees this! : )

5 Alex Belth   ~  Apr 14, 2010 1:32 pm

4) YOU are amazing, sir. Just when you think you've got a guy pegged. I was going to actually mention you in the post, but dag, there you go, surprising me again. Awesome!

6 RIYank   ~  Apr 14, 2010 1:43 pm

[5] I know, I gave up long ago. The dude is so unpredictable that you guess wrong even when you predicts he's going to be unpredictable.

I love cilantro, grow it every summer.

I also love Harold McGee! I'm a huge, huge fan of his. On Food and Cooking is a classic, and still easily the best book of its kind. (Though a lot of people won't really like its kind.)

7 thelarmis   ~  Apr 14, 2010 1:58 pm

[5/6] HA! thanks. i think! ; )

oh, i also forgot to mention cumin [3]. Indian, is my favorite food and i love the cumin seeds in the papadum bread.

now, arugula - i doesn't even know what this is!!!

i also don't know Harold McGhee. but i dig Howard McGhee - old Bop trumpeter from the 40's-50's!

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