Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Brain Droppings vol 5

Ah, Tuesday... the day of enlightenment.  Hopefully.
For example, did you know that you can sharpen your sense of smell by wetting your nose?  Oh, you went to sixth grad science camp, too?  Well, my mom didn't know this factoid but she quickly used her powers of reasoning and noted that it probably explained why smells were more pungent on humid days. Smart woman.
Try it yourself!
Speaking of pungent things... I'd like to take this time to explain people's love/hate relationship with cilantro, the leafy part of the coriander plant. Well, I wont get into the 'love' aspect but I'll see if I can enlighten you on the hate part at least. 

While there are foods I loathe, nothing comes close to the revulsion I have for cilantro.  It affects me viscerally, causing nausea from the smell and often worse effects from the taste (I'll spare you the details).  When I confide my true feelings for the leafy green, I'm either met with shocked faces or exuberhantly sympathetic 'Me too!'s.  So what gives?
There are several theories, including some involving a genetic disposition to hate the herb but the one I'll go into today is the explanation for why many people think it tastes like soap or lotion.  To me personally, it tastes like neither... But it does taste like danger and the following theory explains that just as well.
The characteristic smell of cilantro is made up of molecules that are the same or similar to many found in soaps and cleaning agents. 
That's so straightforward, it makes me wonder why the herb doesn't taste rancid to everyone...
Well, our senses of smell and taste are tuned to evoke strong reactions because they are critical for avoiding poisonous or spoilt food.  You wouldn't want to have to try something several times to find out that it makes you sick.  You've probably had trouble overcoming this hardwired system when you tried to eat a food that you ate before getting the flu.  It took me years and years to like eggs again.
So, if you grew up in a culture that uses this herb in many dishes, you would associate that taste with food, nourishment and family.  If you grew up without many cilantro run ins, when you do first taste or smell it, the closest reference your brain has to compare it to is to cleaning agents and our brains are smart enough to know THOSE are not edible. Yuk!
So there you have it.  That's one theory.  It's probably not the whole story because certainly some people in cilantro-infused cultures despise it as well but it sure does make me feel better about my crippling aversion.  

6 comments:

  1. I LOVE cilantro but I also grew up with it all my life. I can't stand thyme!! It goes something along the lines of your hate for cilantro. And some natural cleaning products use thyme as their base, it's disgusting!!

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  2. Very enlightening, indeed.

    But I still love cilantro, even it's molecularly (spell check doesn't like that word and won't give me a substitute!!!) similar to soap. ;)

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  3. When Ian and I lived in Scotland, we were on the hunt for the best Mexican food there. Most were crap (white rice, canned beans, no chips & salsa?!?), but this one in particular used cilantro. We were thrilled and loved it. Our Scottish friends that were with us? They thought this cilantro stuff was gross and ruined the food. Made me laugh.

    And by the way, I despise rosemary. The stuff is gross and I can taste even a minuscule amount in food.

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  4. Love this!


    The video was made by a small production company out of Denton, Texas. That was just the teaser - they haven't finished the full wedding video yet. It's so cute, though!

    I hardly ever leave the house anymore. Heh. If we do, we usually bring Ena along with us. Most places around here are dog friendly, as long as they're small.

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  5. I was eating eggs at a restaurant once when I overheard a fellow diner (who probably had a cold)cough something up and for some reason it struck me as so incredible gross that I couldn't eat eggs for quite a while after that.

    *This has absolutely nothing to do with smell and everything to do with that last illustration you posted.

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  6. i am a lover of cilantro, but learned to love cilantro haters when i read this article:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/14/dining/14curious.html

    cilantro haters, it's not your fault.

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