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Whoa-oh, I like it
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Gerry & The Pacemakers – I Like It

Coriander. I love it, and so does Megan. Bet you didn’t expect that.

Well, I didn’t use to like it much, and neither did a lot of people I knew. When I found out that there is most likely a genetic pre-disposition to not liking this green, leafy herb, I wanted to know more.

You see, Charles J. Wysocki of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia is known for his studies into why coriander polarises those who taste it. There are two common perceptions of the taste of coriander. Some taste it as vile and soapy, even with a decaying character. Others say it’s fresh and citrussy.

When I first tasted the herb, I predominantly tasted the soapy character, and found it an unnecessary addition to my Thai curry or Mexican salsa. But I continued to eat it when I encountered it, and gradually realised that some dishes just aren’t complete without it. Now, I use it as regularly as parsley. Why has my perception of it changed so much, even though I probably pre-disposed to not like it?

Think about broccoli or brussels sprouts. As a kid, most of us disliked those vegetables because we are genetically programmed to reject foods which have a bitter character to avoid poisons. I remember watching Robert Winston’s amazing documentary The Human Instinct and seeing an experiment where he feeds puréed radicchio to an infant. Let’s just say the results were amusing.

But our tastebuds change as we age, particularly as a child, and many of us now enjoy foods like broccoli. Coriander can have a similar reversal. It’s the prolonged exposure to those foods in dishes that teaches our brain to realise that they are not a threat. Regarding his change in opinion of coriander, or cilantro, as it’s know in the USA, Dr Jay Gottfried of Northwestern University said:

“I didn’t like cilantro to begin with,” he said. “But I love food, and I ate all kinds of things, and I kept encountering it. My brain must have developed new patterns for cilantro flavour from those experiences, which included pleasure from the other flavours and the sharing with friends and family. That’s how people in cilantro-eating countries experience it every day.”

Whilst I’m on the topic of cilantro, I’d like to share a story. My friend from California once said to me , “I just wish I could find my favourite ‘erb here. I’ve looked everywhere.” I asked what it was, and she replied “cilantro”. I told her it’s called coriander in Australia, and she told me, “Oh, I have that in my garden”.

There are other foods I also find taste soapy. Lychee immediately springs to mind. Perhaps, in time, I’ll get over that too. But my point is, sometimes there are physical reasons why people don’t like certain food.

On a final note, if you don’t like coriander leaf, try dry-roasting some coriander seeds, then grinding them in a mortar & pestle. The resulting powder has all the citrus character of the leaves, but also a deep, nutty fragrance which is divine. It might just help you begin to enjoy the herb.

So there we are. The Fussy Foodies are trying to convince you to try something you may not like and we do. I’ll leave you with Gerry & The Pacemakers.

Gerry & The Pacemakers – I Like It

 

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Jesse won’t eat:

Eggs
Mushrooms
Raw tomatoes
Oysters
Mussels
Prawns
Offal
Blue cheese
Fetta
Olives
Stonefruit
Berries
Beetroot
Bananas
Avocado
Pickles/Gherkins

Megan won’t eat:

Potato
Salmon
Tuna
Anchovies
Raw fish
Eggs
Olives
Peas
Carrots
Bananas
Offal
anything with a head/tailbones/skin i cant eat
fancy lettuce
mussels
fancy mushrooms
Beans Baked, white, kidney