This title makes it sound like I’m about to introduce a silly woo theory I found on the internet, but I actually mean it.
Fresh coriander (or cilantro in the States) is a herb like no other. To my knowledge, there is no bigger controversy surrounding any other edible green leaf. Some people can’t get enough of it, others viscerally hate it. There is even a website called IHateCilantro.com
Of course it is normal for people to like or dislike different foods. However, when it comes to coriander, this disagreement becomes extreme. I am in the coriander hater camp, and I can tell you that it’s not just a matter of disliking it. Fresh coriander, to me, tastes toxic. It tastes like chemicals, like dish soap, like the kind of thing that your body automatically refuses as something that is not edible, that might make you very very sick. Because of this, I never understood how people could love it, to the point of eating a coriander salad. To me that would be like eating a stick of lipstick, or drinking the dirty soapy dishwater in my sink. It’s no longer a matter of like or dislike, it’s a matter of bodily refusal. I am not alone in this, and it is this controversy that finally sparked scientific scrutiny.
It turns out that it’s not that people who like coriander like the taste of soap and garbage, it’s that they don’t taste it the same way that we, who hate it, do. A friend of mine, who loves coriander, says it tastes light and peppery, not remotely like chemicals at all. It comes down to your genes, and whether or not you can pick up a certain aldehyde that is present in fresh coriander. I’ll let the good folks at SciShow explain further.
It has now become one of my favorite quick and dirty genetic experiments. Get a group of people who have never tasted coriander before, smack a small bunch of it down on the table, have them all try it and watch them either pull disgusted faces or shrug in a “what’s the big deal” sort of way.