Thursday, June 18, 2015

How Amusement Parks are Like Cilantro (Alissa Grosso)

When, the amusement park theme was chosen for this month, I got a little bit scared. Just the words "amusement park" strike fear into my heart. Well, fear and nausea. In this case, the reason was that I had no idea what I was going to write about. I haven't been to an amusement park, in a very long time, and the reason is that I'm a grown up, and the nice thing about being a grown up is that you don't have to do things that you don't want to do.

I think they call this ride the swings, but wheel-of-barf seems more accurate.

I hunted through my memories searching for interesting amusement park anecdotes, but nothing was coming to mind. The fact is that most of my amusement park memories are of trying not to puke, and in my later years when I finally realized that amusement rides did not agree with me, sitting on benches while others rode the barf-inducing machines. Naturally, I thought these people were crazy. (FYI, I was often related to these people.)

Then a friend of mine, fellow YA author Gae Polisner, posted something on Facebook about cilantro and you should have seen the crazy comment war that ensued. There are a lot of people out there who have strong opinions about cilantro. As in, they absolutely, resolutely hate the stuff. Cilantro!
The spice that launched a Facebook comment war.

I was flabbergasted. How could anyone hate cilantro? I mean, I am a picky eater and I am well aware of the fact that there are a whole lot of foods out there that are deserving of hate: coconut, cinnamon raisin bagels and sweet potatoes all come immediately to mind, but cilantro? I mean, I don't think there's any spice that I truly abhor, but if I was going to pick a spice to hate, it certainly wouldn't be something as mild and innocuous as cilantro. Thyme, maybe or sage, seem like better candidates.

Well, thankfully someone else pointed out that cilantro-hatred might have it's roots in genetics. That is, that there are some people who taste something completely different than what the rest of us taste when they eat foods containing cilantro. I think, it's similar to (and I'm not sure but it may even be the same people) folks who can't stand the taste of perfectly delicious vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts because of some quirk in their DNA. Anyway, when I read that comment it all clicked.

Cilantro-haters seem to be under the impression that the rest of the world is crazy for liking what to them is a disgusting spice, not unlike the fact that someone who can't handle any ride more daring than a Merry-Go-Round because her particular biology means that she'll end up feeling sick to her stomach, thinks that people who pay money and wait on line to ride such dreadful things are complete lunatics.

It's a good reminder whether we're creating characters in a novel or having a conversation with someone whose opinions seem incomprehensible to us. There are so many different factors that go into shaping a person's opinion of something, opinions that might seem unfathomable to others whose experiences or biology have led to the forming of a completely different opinion. It's also something that we should keep in mind during online or offline discourse, though being a grown up, I know better than to hold my breath waiting for this to actually happen.

I leave you with this startling fact, there are people out there who enjoy eating coconut and cinnamon raisin bagels, and I know this because I'm actually related to some of them.


  1. Nice blog, Alissa. I happen to actually like cinnamon raisin bagels (with butter) and I adore sweet potatoes. But I am definitely one of those "cilantro haters". I don't know why, but I can't stand it. Yet, it is an interesting comparison to amusement parks. All the best, Lauren Curasco

  2. I like cilantro; my husband doesn't. Our marriage survives. ;-)

    (I agree with you about sweet potatoes, but cinnamon raisin bagels are OK, and I love coconut. Takes all kinds!)

  3. Love this - so true to take a look at subjectivity and likes/dislikes - genetic or not, it's a mystery but it makes the world interesting!

    PS cilantro is AWFUL!

  4. Cilantro is AWESOME. You're nuts, Natasha. ;)