Like 95% of the human population, I detest cilantro. For those of you who are lucky enough to have never tasted it and are curious it is akin to eating paper thin slices of a cheap bar of soup; not the creamy, aromatic ones like Dove or Ivory, nor the cheaper private label brands of the major grocery stores, but the cheapest soap in the lowest end stores in the worst part of town. Yet for some reason some of my favourite celebrity chefs insist on using it.
I don’t know how many times I’ve been watching a cooking show on TV or a video recipe on the Internet and witnessed the chef prepare one of the most mouth-watering dishes imaginable only to at the very end hear those dreaded words, “and then I like to garnish it with some fresh cilantro”. Even Chef John from Foodwishes.com, the greatest of all celebrity chefs, insists on tossing Satan’s herb over some his best creations.
This isn’t a case of someone who dislikes strong tasting herbs. I’ve got sage and rosemary plants growing next to my house and use them all the time. I’m not a fan of mint but I realize that many people love it, particularly when it is thrown in with some white rum, but I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered a regular person who truly enjoys the taste of cilantro. It is awful. The only reason it is sold in grocery stores at all is because of all the home cooks trying out the recipes from their favourite celebrity chefs.
If all celebrity chefs banned together and agreed to stop including cilantro in their recipes the herb would be virtually eradicated from the planet within three years. It would be like Polio; only existing in some of the most remote mountain regions of Pakistan. By contrast, if every chef in the world took up an active campaign against oregano it would not have even a slight impact on production. The reason of course is that oregano tastes fantastic. The smell of oregano in the kitchen just makes you hungry and eager to cook and eat. Seeing cilantro on the counter of the friend who invited you over to dinner gives much the same feeling as seeing a moose darting in front your car on the ride over.
A truly good herb isn’t used as a garnish; it is used as an ingredient in the cooking process. You don’t throw a handful of oregano over your pizza, you add it to the sauce so it can spread around its flavour. Have you ever heard of anyone garnishing their dish with a pinch of fresh rosemary? Of course not. The only dish that cilantro is commonly used during the cooking process is salsa where you have enough jalapeño to blunt the herb’s sharp edges.
Cilantro is a fraud. It seems so popular but truth be told everyone hates it and its prominence is owed entirely to the chefs who promote it on the Internet and TV. If cilantro was a person its last name would be Kardashian-Hilton. If there was no food media, there would be no cilantro.