Cilantro and Five Other Foods That Divide Us

Dear Dill, you're pretty and all with your yellow flowers, but you still suck.
Dear Dill, you're pretty and all with your yellow flowers, but you still suck.
Lauren Drewes Daniels

This weekend I was walking past a friend's garden and noticed a beautiful row of dill plants. Atop each long, thin stem was a flurry of yellow trumpet flowers, and I thought, "I always say I hate dill, but really I'm probably being too harsh. How can something so beautiful be so bad?"

So I pinched off a few sprigs and, with an open mind, inhaled the scent. Then promptly threw it on the ground and walked away thinking, "How can anyone like that?"

Then another neighbor walked over to pick cucumbers from the garden. I told her how much I hate dill. She said she loves it and puts it in everything, including the cucumber salad she was about to make. I told her I was more of a cilantro girl. She told me her husband hates cilantro, which is why she uses dill so often.

I love fresh, fragrant cilantro. It's a staple. I'll eat it straight off the stem. But I realize that cilantro is one of the most polarizing foods out there. You're either on the team or you're not.

In a New York Times article in 2010, Harold McGee studied cilantro haters. Turns out he found their complaint may be legit because cilantro has some similar properties as soap, called aldehydes, and they can trigger more of a reaction (or repulsion) in some people's brain paths than others.

There are a few other foods that arouse palate-aversion in people.

1. Coconut I've met people who get borderline violent at the sight of coconut-anything, either based the texture of the dry flakes atop a pie or the flavor.

2. Tofu A big texture-food that conjures up a lot of ill will is tofu. Grilled tofu appeared in a "seafood" dish at a Chinese restaurant recently and I honestly had an urge to throw it across the room. I've never caught any of those new tofu fish off the pier. Biting into that unexpectedly soggy texture was gross. OK, maybe I'd had a few drinks and wasn't inspecting things well, but still that was mean.

3. Sour cream Sour cream is another texture-based foe. Sometimes it's solid, sometimes more of a liquid. You're either at peace with it, or you tell waiters, "Please, don't even put the sour cream on my plate." (Look, there. They put the damn sour cream on my plate.) The same texture issue doubles for cottage cheese. It's hard to tell your mouth what to expect.

4. Mayo Then there's mayo. Most jars I buy play out a lonely existence hidden on a lower shelf and expire after I've used only a few tablespoons to make tartar sauce. With all that said though, I love tartar sauce.

5. White Chocolate Last but not least, white chocolate. If cocoa isn't involved, I don't see the upside. No matter the taste of the confection, by name, it's a lie. Perhaps if white chocolate renamed itself, like how North Dakota wanted to change its name to just "Dakota," it would have a better rap. Otherwise, it's just a scam.

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