Outrage? The word hardly begins to describe what I am feeling right now. Oh, I know, we’ve all been programmed to “love” cilantro, but what do we really know about this shadowing little herb? You would be shocked, shocked (!) by the way our culture is being invaded by Cilantro, if that is your real name. Where did it come from? How did it get here? Here’s what I found as Revolution and Beer blows the lid off this leafy little alien invader.
Cilantro is an alias and may be the name concocted to addict, cajole or possess our friends south of the border. To hide the true extent of the global takeover by the Cilantro pushers they have cleverly and brilliantly proliferated cilantro by different names. The Vietnamese call it Rau Ram. This dangerous, dangerous herb is also suspiciously pandered as coriander, Chinese parsley and Dhania, which makes no sense at all! Cilantro, by the way, is a far more lucrative crop than ever hemp. And did you know children can purchase it openly?
Now we all loved coriander when we were kids, but who ever heard about cilantro before 1980? Not decent god-fearing Americans! Now it seems clear that all of us working hard to prevent “urban” and “foreign” elements from getting into the suburbs with regular Americans were being softened up with this silent coriander invasion. Call it the Manchurian herb. For the love of god, its even used in Beer!
I grew up living an idyllic life of TV dinners, corn syrup and Midwestern rock and roll. Then one day I am riding my Schwinn bike with the banana seat and orange safety flag down my suburban street. I was minding my business and without warning there appeared the first Taco Bell. Now, I had been protected from food with flavor my whole life, enjoying the blessings of tuna casserole, meatloaf and bologna. It was a magical world, in which if you wanted flavor in food you fried it, dammit! Until that day I was never threatened with “let’s eat Mexican tonight.” We didn’t know what Mexican’s ate, and up until then, in the suburbs, Mexicans were still white like the rest of us. If they spoke Spanish they were decent enough not to let anyone else hear. For god’s sake I graduated high school without ever hearing the word chutney! Thank god Taco Bell has nothing to do with Mexican cuisine.
But we were being indoctrinated slowly. Somewhere in the dark and unconscious recesses of our untainted suburban minds a question grew. It was as if it was planted there compelling us to pander what real Mexican food might taste like. And so it began, first with Mexican cuisine, and if that wasn’t bad enough, suddenly there was Indian food, Mediterranean and then the Thai food invasion of 1992. Wikipedia claims that is was used widely in Ancient Greece and Macedonia. As we know all of those ancient Greeks are now dead. Is cilantro to blame? I can’t believe it is only a coincidence.
But key to kicking an addiction is admitting that you have a problem. Walking through the produce aisle at the local supermarket I blindly slipped a bunch into a plastic bag and tossed it into the cart. The wife politely asked if I was planning on making Mexican food for dinner.
“No,” I replied. “Why do you ask?”
I lost it at that point. I was thunderstruck and fell to my knees, my anguished cried echoing through the store. I had no idea why I grabbed cilantro. It was automatic, greater and stronger than I was. I passed and the cilantro called out to me in that way that it does; seductive, demanding, threatening that food will taste…dare I say? White! I wanted to rip it from the cart, fling it with extreme prejudice back into the cilantro…section!!??! I would have if, if, if…it really does add something doesn’t it. What’s that flavor? A certain peppery essence with citrus notes; subtle but not overpowering.
As you can see I am hopelessly addicted to the stuff. Tonight I went home and put it on a hamburger. I’m lost. Cilantro has me in its grip and I don’t know if I am strong enough to break it. But perhaps I can be an example to others. Maybe you or someone you know will be saved. Who knows? America, we got greedy. We could have stopped at Taco Bell, but we didn’t. We took our eye off the ball and look what’s happened to us: Chipoltle. Still not Mexican. I fact I’ve never actually seen a Mexican eating in one, but they flaunt their cilantro openly and unabashedly.
But think of this the next time you reach over and grab a hand full of cilantro at the market. Sure it might be a good source of calcium, vitamins A and C ,phosphorus and potassium, but it is more than 92% water, and that is a rip off. It’s like someone handing you a wet paper towel and saying it’s a good source of tree. If that helps you pass by that green mound beneath the mister then maybe I will have saved just one life, and isn’t that worth it?