Saturday, February 21, 2009

don't hold the cilantro


Across the country people fume,
repeating fervently this mantra
expressed against a mere legume:
“I do not want to eat cilantro!”
From Southern California to
the lowlands of south England, Surrey,
opponents with disfavor view
its taste to which they cannot curry.
But I don’t think I’ll ever curb
my appetite, I say with candor,
for fresh leaves of this healthy herb.
It’s also known as coriander,
and thus resembles manna which
came down from heaven, feeding Jews
for forty years without a hitch.
Another name some people choose
is Chinese parsley––it was thought
in the dynasty of Han,
two thousand years ago to thwart
mortality of Chinese man,
to make him godlike. Yet its foes
consider it both vile and rotten,
offensive to the tongue and nose,
a vegetable that’s misbegotten,
banned from the salads that foes buy,
and even from their guacamole,
to which it gives an accent I
adore––cilantro savored slowly,
no jalapenos can defy!
For me, perhaps because I’m Jewish,
it is a perfect food; like manna,
it makes me happy when I’m bluish,
and causes me to shout, “Hosanna!”
I’ll always on cilantro count
in guacamole or a salad,
and since for me it’s paramount,
I dedicate to it this ballad.
Sarah Rubenstein writes about cilantro, a vegetable which manna resembled (Num. 11:7), in the WSJ, February 13, 2009 (“Across the Land, People Are Fuming Over an Herb (No, Not That One): Cilantro Haters Boo ‘Fetid Barb of Green’; A Prominent Critic Recants”):
After picking up a vegetable burrito on his way home from work, Mike Racanelli planted himself in front of his television and took a bite. The smell hit him immediately: cilantro. Irate, the 29-year-old Chicago band manager drove 20 miles back to the Mexican restaurant where he'd bought the offending item, threw it on the counter, he recalls, and "raised hell," demanding a cilantro-free replacement "immediately." Later, he decided to vent some more. He recounted his experience on a Facebook networking group called "I HATE CILANTRO." Social-networking Web sites have emerged as a bonding place for the multitudes who share his aversion to the pungent herb. The group has 894 members; there are some 40 other Facebook groups dedicated to cilantro bashing. Cilantro lovers say it has a refreshing, lemony or limelike flavor that complements everything from guacamole to curry. It's a key ingredient in a range of ethnic cuisines, including Mexican, Indian and Chinese. But few foods elicit such heated negative reactions. Many people say it tastes soapy, rotten or just plain vile. Just a whiff of it is enough to make them push away their plates. Cilantro, also known as Chinese parsley, is the leaves of the herb coriander, native to the eastern Mediterranean region. Cultivated for more than 3,000 years, the herb was used by Roman and Greek physicians, including Hippocrates, to make medicines. During the Chinese Han dynasty some 2,000 years ago, it was thought to have the power to make people immortal, according to Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs.

© 2009 Gershon Hepner 2/20/09

1 comment:

  1. I make a nearly immortal chicken tortilla soup with a whole bunch of cilantro (well immortal in memory, anyway). If the store happens to be out of cilantro, I don't make the soup. It's that important.