I’ve got a secret I need to get off my chest, and it’s not one I’m proud of. In fact, I think the majority of you will judge me pretty harshly for what I’m about to say.
All I can ask is for you to hear me out while I come clean, and if you still want to judge me by the time you get to the end of this article then at least you’ve given me a fair shot – which is all I can ask, given the circumstances.
Okay, here goes: I don’t like coriander.
Actually, no. I don’t just dislike it. I despise it. I hate it so much that the thought of eating it makes me feel physically sick and I outwardly cringe whenever someone mentions it in passing.
Don’t ask me where this hatred comes from, because I don’t know. All I know is that, for years, I’d be eating a meal when all of a sudden an inexplicable taste of soap would fill my mouth and I’d be left wondering what the hell just happened.
As I’m not very culinary-minded, I’m ashamed to say it took me way longer than necessary to realise what the soapy taste was. Was the dishwasher faulty and throwing out parts of the capsules onto the plates? Was someone secretly spiking my food with soap? Who knew?
Once I asked around and realised what exactly was infesting my food though, you’d better believe I put a stop to it. And I’m happy to report that since going coriander free, I’ve only been outsmarted by the herb on a few occasions.
I’m still haunted by the one time I was on a health kick and decided to buy a salad from Marks & Spencer (other salad vendors are available) to treat myself. Having spent nearly my entire life savings on one tiny meal, I expected big things.
And big things I got, but not in the ‘oh my God I just had the best salad of my life and it’s blown my mind’ kind of way. Oh no. It was more in a ‘oh my GOD why am I in hell right now what is that HORRIFIC thing that I’ve just eaten’ kind of way.
Yep, you guessed it, after taking just one bite I realised something was horribly, horribly wrong and I had to throw the entire thing in the bin – all because someone had decided coriander was a good addition to an otherwise delicious salad.
Eating out in restaurants is a complete minefield as well; how are you supposed to know if a dish has coriander in it?! Why isn’t it a thing that menus have to list each individual ingredient in each meal?
Of course, you could always ask someone who works at the restaurant, but then you’d be forever known as ‘the weird customer who demanded to know which individual herbs were in each and every dish,’ and nobody wants to be that guy.
No, instead I think every menu should have a ‘CF’ symbol next to each meal to indicate which ones are coriander free. It’s only fair to those people who, like me, cannot stand coriander in any form.
Because, apparently, I’m not the only one. Not only have more than 240,000 people gathered in a Facebook community aptly called ‘I Hate Coriander,’ but there’s even an #Ihatecoriander hashtag on Twitter, which none other than Steven Fry has used – albeit two years ago.
Don’t believe me? Take a look:
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) January 8, 2017
There’s also a website with the URL ‘ihatecoriander.org,’ from which you can buy a tote bag for as little as $4.95 and a hoodie for as much as $44.95. You can also buy sunglasses for $9.95, t-shirts for $29.95, and ‘coriander free zone’ artwork for $35.
Despite this, it pains me to say I’m in the minority. A study conducted by 23andMe, the largest genetic testing company, found only 26 percent of people with European ancestry disliked the herb, while only 12 per cent of people with Asian ancestry did. According to a study published by BMC, only 3 per cent of people from the Middle East dislike the herb.
Basically, the majority of people actually like (well, love) coriander. And to those people I say: why?! Apparently, it all comes down to science. When comparing the DNA of coriander haters to coriander lovers, the researchers found a genetic variation thought to be associated with those who found it soapy-tasting.
Their report said:
Cilantro’s aromatic qualities primarily depend on a group of compounds known as aldehydes. One type of aldehyde has been described as being ‘fruity’ and ‘green’ and another type as being ‘soapy’ and ‘pungent’.
One of the eight genes near the SNP we identified codes for a receptor called OR6A2, which is known to detect aldehydes such as those found in cilantro.
As per The Telegraph, it’s estimated approximately 10 percent of the population are affected by the gene which causes coriander to have an unpleasant flavour.
This receptor gene causes the olfactory substances in the plant to bind in a stronger manner to the receptors, and is more common in women and people of European descent. So, check and check.
Professor Russell Keast, who specialises in sensory food science at Deakin University’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, backs this claim up, putting our love/hate relationship with the herb down to our genetics.
Writing on the university’s website, the professor explained we have ‘smell receptors in our nose that are responsible for identifying volatile compounds in the atmosphere, including volatile compounds released from potential foods’.
It’s these smell receptors which determine what we taste when we eat coriander. However, they are ‘highly variable’ between people, so individual perceptions of the herb can differ greatly.
Depending on the variant of smell receptors a person has, they might experience a soap-like flavour when they consume coriander, instead of the herb-like flavour the majority of people experience.
So if, like me, you perceive coriander to be the devil’s herb and are judged heavily for it on a daily basis, don’t stress. Next time someone tries to bring you down and question all of your life choices because of a measly herb, just point out the simple fact of science.
All you need to do whenever Mike or Susan or Rob calls you a disgrace for actively hating the stuff – because that day will come, I promise you – is look them in the eye and say just one thing.
Which is this:
Oi, Susan, just because I have receptor gene OR6A2, which causes the olfactory substances in coriander to bind in a stronger manner and taste like actual soap, it doesn’t make me any less of a human being!
Or, to keep things simple, just tell Susan to back off because you’ve been cursed with a gene which makes coriander taste God awful.
After all, you can’t argue with science, right?
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).