I’m not usually one to complain about food–even back when the airlines were serving it, I didn’t find it as unspeakably bad as almost everyone else did. (What did they expect?? They were on an airplane and the main object was to get somewhere–not have a 5-star dining experience.)

But having said that I don’t usually complain when it comes to food, I will admit there are certain flavors to which I was apparently born to object. Olives are one–I just don’t like them, plain and simple–green or black, big or small–I just don’t like them and have been known to pick tiny diced pieces of them out of just about anything in which they have appeared that has ultimately turned up on my plate. Chamomile is another–but let’s be honest, unless I am reading Peter Rabbit I rarely even hear of it, leave alone actually have to deal with it as a flavor. Saffron is a bit like chamomile in my book–I’d much rather go without.

Cilantro–or coriander, depending on which end of the plant you are talking about–has a taste more objectionable to me than olives–and that is saying a lot. It used to be that cilantro was like chamomile and saffron–I didn’t have to think much about it unless I was in a Mexican restaurant and then I knew I needed to be on guard. But then something happened between 1990 and 1995.

In 1990 all was well on the cilantro front in the U.S.–it existed but I knew its hideouts and felt safe from surprise attack. It was under this security blanket that I left the U.S. for what would be a 5-year sojourn. On my return I soon discovered that my security blanket had been rudely ripped off and that cilantro was on the rampage. Somehow in my absence it had become everyone else’s herb of choice and the restaurants were not shy about flaunting that fact to attract the masses.

Cilantro reigned!! It was in EVERYTHING. It was in all manner of soups, salads, and sandwiches, it was in dips, it was in sauces, it was in pâtés. It was in omelettes, and vegetable dishes. It tuned up in casseroles and meat loaves–ones that had been perfectly fine before and were totally ruined after. Basically it was mixed in, sprinkled over, or dissolved into almost everything edible known to western man–or rather, western man as he exists in the USA. I couldn’t believe the betrayal and sabotage that awaited me at every formerly safe haven. What to do? I considered re-leaving the country.

What is it about cilantro that I find so distasteful–in every sense of the word? I find its taste hard to describe except that it’s awful. Once, a waitress, when I asked if cilantro was present in whatever I had ordered, took my side. She couldn’t stand cilantro either. To her it tasted like soap flakes. That’s as good a description as I’ve ever heard, yet it doesn’t really say it all.

All I know is that when a sliver of the leaf or the seed from the cilantro/coriander plant finds it way to my taste buds I have all I can do to keep from forcefully spitting it out on the spot. But, considering myself a member of relatively polite and civilized society, I internally gag instead and then force myself to swallow the stuff hoping against hope that that won’t cause negative repercussions.

In the telling of what happened in this country during my 5-year absence with regard to the unleashing of cilantro, I sometimes have slightly overstated the case, just to make the point that cilantro suddenly was EVERYWHERE, by saying it was in ice cream. That always got people’s attention–especially Europeans because they expect as much of Americans (putting everything into or onto ice cream)–and then, having made my point I would have to back down and admit that that crime had actually not been perpetrated. Today, however, I’m distressed to relate that it has.

Some misguided ice cream company in Texas has actually come up with a flavor called “Tequila and Cilantro”–and confronted with that, I sincerely doubt that I would be able to confine my reaction to that of the “polite and civilized”. Really! As Dr. Phil would say, “What the hell are they thinking?” My guess would be that the tequila got the better of them before it got to the ice cream and the rest is history. So now that my worst cilantro fears have been realized, I rest my case. It’s everywhere and in everything…nothing is safe. Be vigilant, and beware.

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