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My name is Tim Rowland, and I'm a cilantro hater

April 15, 2010|By TIM ROWLAND

The restaurant was dark and so was my heart.

I grabbed the waiter by his shirt collar and pulled him close enough to smell my hatred and said, "Listen Jeeves, I want the FISH, but more important is what I DON'T want. I DO NOT, do you hear me, DO NOT want any of that gawdawful CILANTRO that people around here insist on putting on EVERYTHING, as near as I can tell, including their BREAKFAST CEREAL. So I do not want cilantro in my salad, I do not want it in any side dish, I do not want it in my steak, I do not want it in my cake, and most important I DO NOT WANT IT IN MY FISH!"

I was in Bangkok at the time (where they garnish their cilantro with a little fish), and being Thai, my waiter didn't understand a word that I said, and when the fish arrived it had fistfuls of cilantro protruding from its mouth, gills and stomach cavity. I picked at it, but the otherwise excellent fish was ruined; it might as well have been soaked in slurry of stinkbugs.

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I've lived with this cilantro hatred in secrecy for years, feeling as if I were on an island. I couldn't tell anyone, because it seemed so irrational. I like everything. And even the things I don't relish, I can usually tolerate. Except cilantro. My dear friend Laura would make salsa every summer, and she always had to turn out two cilantro-free jars for moi. Everyone else looked at me as if I'd just requested a pound cake without any butter.

I felt so alone. Until yesterday, when I saw this headline in the New York Times: "Cilantro Haters, It's Not Your Fault." It isn't? My stars, why didn't someone tell me before this?

Not since the invention of the spork have I felt such a culinary epiphany. You mean there are -- there are others?

The piece includes a 2002 quote from Julia Child who said, when asked if there were anything she did not like, replied: "Cilantro and arugula I don't like at all. They're both green herbs and they have kind of a dead taste to me."

Exactly. All these years I have known that I hated cilantro, but hadn't been able to put my finger on why that was. But then I saw the word "dead." Bingo.

To some, cilantro smells like bugs or soap. To me, it's like walking down the side of the road when I see a woodchuck that, about five days ago, was struck and killed by a car. In 100-degree heat. I say to myself, "Umm, putrid groundhog," and I pull out a spoon and scoop out some of the side meat. To me, that's cilantro.

The New York Times, being the New York Times, went on to write a treatise the size of the Health Care Reform Act that scientifically explains why it is that a significant minority of people vehemently and legitimately dislike the stuff. But I didn't read it.

It was enough to know that there is a small but vocal world of right-thinking Americans who are on my side. There's an "I Hate Cilantro" Facebook page and an "I Hate Cilantro" blog.

The word cilantro apparently even came from the Greek word meaning "infestation of bedbugs."

So all these years, it turns out that I was right, and I just didn't know it. Besides, I look at cilantro as a positive way to channel my hatred. While others focus their hatred based on politics, race and religion, I prefer to focus my hatred on a leafy green vegetable. You can't get any healthier than that.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or via e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. Tune in to the Rowland Rant video under opinion@herald-mail.com, on antpod.com or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 at 6:30 p.m. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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