Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Why I Love Cilantro

It has recently come to my attention that a thriving web community exists of people who hate cilantro. They have (or had) websites (www.ihatecilantro), Facebook pages, letters to editor in major cooking magazines, and even a blog devoted to hating cilantro.

It might be tempting to write a blog entry about how cool it is that the Internet can bring together the most unlikely people ... that MIGHT be tempting if they weren't picking on cilantro. Instead, I think this is a prime example of why the Internet is evil.

First off, and most importantly, cilantro is delicious. I LOVE cilantro. It improves virtually everything to which it is added. I throw handfuls of it in Mexican and Indian food, I find ways to slip it into salads, I sometimes munch on handfuls of it like a cilantro-scented cow.

Second of all, cilantro is delicate. Ever noticed when you buy it that the fresh herb only lasts a few days? You can't keep cilantro around for long. And if you want to grow it ... ha ha! It took me two years and many tries to grow cilantro successfully. It hates heat, needs just the right amount of water, and even then, only lasts for about two months. Like all excellent things, cilantro needs to be babied. It takes a careful, skilled hand to nurture its pungent delights.

There are a lot of features of modern life that I think are very cool. I can video chat with complete strangers wearing only a shirt and tie and boxer shorts, and somehow this is "professional." I can join any number of tribes from a thousand miles away; I can reach across time and space with nothing but a keyboard and three cents of silicon. I can access any piece of information, any piece of media, at almost brain-speed.

But I have a message for you cilantro haters: step off the herb. Go pick on something else that truly deserves to be described as "the pubes of a demon."

Like parsley.


Mark Terry said...

I, as a guy who was involved in genetics for a long time, had always heard that this was one of those genetic things, like ability to roll your tongue or taste whatever that weird chemical is they make you taste in biology class. Anyway, although there's undoubtedly a genetic component to taste, this one has largely been untested, although apparently many people say that cilantro tastes soapy.

Guess what? I'm one of those people. I don't mind it in small doses, and as you say, it's possible that when it's very soapy it's been around too long or been heated too much (or too little). I have had some salsas where I thought, "Holy Crap, did they make this was Palmolive?"

In that respect, it always reminds me of the time when my wife tried cooking an Asian dish using bottled ginger rather than fresh grated ginger root. The only time both of us were in agreement and threw the food out and went out to eat.

Anonymous said...

I am a lover of Cilantro in fresh salsa and other foods. I had no idea that there was a cyber movement brewing against this herb. I suspect, like the desert toroise in Edward Abbey's The Monkey Wrench Gang, that Cilantro will survive.

E. Flanigan said...

I agree with you that cilantro is awesome, but I disagree with your statement: "Like all excellent things, cilantro needs to be babied."

I don't disagree with the cilantro part, since I have no idea one way or the other. I'm not a gardener :) But not all excellent things need to be babied.

Some excellent things are within your control and require your efforts (like cilantro apparently). But others are not in your control and are excellent nevertheless. (Like a field of wildflowers.) Less personally rewarding, but still excellent.

What I think is cool about the act of creation, whether it be writing or making music or whatever, is that truly excellent creations are the divine interaction between things within your control and things outside of your control. (Or at least, outside of your conscious control.) It's your work with a little fairy dust sprinkled on top.

That's why it can be so maddening, because you have to wait for the magic to show itself. It requires a different kind of patience than the kind where you futz over things and pick at them and baby them. It requires quiet, watchful waiting.

Melanie Avila said...

I've been on a blog kick lately and I think my next one will be called "Whatever's Inside Jon's Brain Is Probably Inside Mine Too."

I've sat and wondered about those people who don't like cilantro. It just doesn't make sense to me. It makes EVERYTHING better!

I also dislike parsley. :)

Natasha Fondren said...

See, okay, people who LIKE cilantro boggle my mind. Seriously, would I munch on a bar of Ivory soap? Um, no. Throw some shampoo in my soup, just for the "delicate" flavor?!

I will admit that since Mexican food is one of my favorite foods, I have been subjected to a lot of cilantro. As I've eaten more of it, I've become numb to some of the soapier overtones of cilantro.

But what does that say about cilantro? It's only good if you eat so much of it that you no longer get the full spectrum of its taste?

Allen said...

I was shopping at the local Food Lion when I came across a guy wandering around the store with a cell phone glued to his ear. Not wanting to pry, I kept my distance, but the volume of the person on the other end of the cell phone made ignoring him impossible.

"It's a vegetable."
"I'm in the vegetable section."
"Do you see lettuce?"
"No, I see cans and there ain't no cilantro."

"Then you are not in the vegetable section."

Ten minutes later, while standing in the line to check out, I see a woman in her fuzzy slippers, what looks like pajamas, and obviously sick, rushing through the door, cell phone planted in her ear.

"Cilantro C-i-l-a-n-t-r-o."

I wanted to stay for the final scene, but the line was moving way too fast. So I thought.

As I reached the checkout lady, the pajama-clad lady fell in line behind me, still yelling at her husband, still looking for cilantro.

As I left the store, I could hear the faint sounds of her last statements, moron, stupid and a few more words not repeatable in public.

Maybe not part of this discussion, but amusing on its own.

LurkerMonkey said...


That's pretty funny about the ginger ... when I first started to cook, I thought a "clove" of garlic was a "toe" of garlic. I remember making a dish that was so loaded with garlic (about 15 cloves), it was inedible.

I'm not going to comment on your feelings for cilantro.

LurkerMonkey said...


I agree too. Cilantro is bigger than its detractors ...

LurkerMonkey said...


Perhaps ... but I'm still waiting to see a field of cilantro.

LurkerMonkey said...



I used to have this job in a restaurant where I had to chop parsley and wring it out between two towels to dry it so the chef could sprinkle it on soups. It was a vile, green mess, like baby vomit.

LurkerMonkey said...

Natasha ...

Did you just compare cilantro to Ivory soap? Because it seemed like you just compared cilantro to Ivory soap, but I'm pretty sure you didn't actually do that.

If Ivory soap were half as good as cilantro, all my food would be sudsy.

LurkerMonkey said...


Two thoughts ... First, that's a dedication I admire. Second, there really isn't a substitute. It's like saffron. You can't fake it.

Melanie Avila said...

I can't stop thinking about this. I've never once thought cilantro smells or tastes like soap. That's so weird.

LurkerMonkey said...


I know ... some people are just weird.

Natasha Fondren said...


And that was NOT a mistake you made, but the first signs of culinary genius! There is nothing wrong with 15 cloves of garlic! In fact that is the precise ratio I use: if the recipe calls for 1 clove, I put in 15; 2 cloves, 30.

Of course, I also eat raw garlic.

Nik said...

Probably a year ago when I was 17, I ordered a taco at this Mexican restaurant. I added the salsa and it had a unique and wonderful flavor which I did not know by then - cilantro. Ever since I found out what herb I had in that taco, I couldn't stop ordering whatever on the menu in various restaurants, not just Mexican, that had CILANTRO in it. Haha, I quit that habit recently but I'm still a fan.

I even stumbled upon this website because I just finished making mango salsa with a handful of cilantro in it. :D

Anonymous said...

How do you people know what soap tast like?

Anyway, cilantro is the SHIT!
The only reason i found this website was because i just dumped a ton of cilantro into my kroger brand salsa to make it tast GREAT!

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