Cilantro: Soap or Savory?

No doubt amongst the most polarizing of herbs, Cilantro seems to illicit uniquely fervent rejoinders in regard to its character and quality. Admittedly, once I counted myself among the ranks of individuals whose assessment of the herbaceous plant as a culinary component, was to jibe “Ghastly Shrub… it lends the impression of soap!” That is because masticating the raw herb awarded the offender the unpleasant sensation of having one’s mouth washed out with soap (such as on the occasion one’s GranGran caught one using colorful language reserved for rugged workmen and sturdy seafaring fellows). Widely believed to be the result of a genetic temperament, those of us afflicted with such unfortunate response had little incentive to join those who seem to be born with a fondness for the flavor experience and add it to all our foods. Quite so… Why put forth the effort to adapt to such sensation if a body is predisposed to affront?

Time passed, as it inevitably does, and my exposure to this herb did not abate. However as my ingestive experiences increased, and I encountered cilantro repeatedly, my aversion to it slowly shifted to a passive indifference. I was able to consume all manner of dishes seasoned with fresh cilantro, and not feel as if my palate was under siege. Within a few years, my sense of flavor continued to evolve to the point where I now crave Cilantro and will take it on its own, by the bunch. In fact, it has become the customary companion to the cured meats and salted quicos Ms. Seville and I have made a habit of enjoying with a splash of dry sherry upon finishing the work day. I would even go so far as to suggest that Cilantro is an ideal flavor enhancer – an herbal MSG of sorts. Its aroma refreshes the very air you breathe, and its pleasant piquancy summarily prepares the palate for the nightly repast. Truly, it’s an utterly civilized way to wind down work and submerse oneself into leisurely ease. If you have reservations regarding the degree of its palate purifying properties, I would encourage you to chew a few sprigs, stem and all, or use as a garnish in your vermouth or sangria. Make a nightly practice of it for a week or two and see if your palate doesn’t evolve to a similar state of delectation.