Chefs are always asked what their favorite foods are; their favorite wines, restaurants etc., but nobody ever asks if there is something they just can’t stand.
When I was very young and growing up in South Africa my parents sent me to boarding school for a better education. It was a great school and has become one of the best private schools in South Africa today. However, at the time (1957), food for the boarders was not a prime concern. As a matter of fact it was pretty damn awful. In the best British tradition, you had to finish everything on your plate or you were punished. I think subconsciously that’s when and where I decided to become a chef so I would never have to eat lousy food again!
Which brings me back to favorite foods! I have cooked and eaten all over the world. I am not afraid to try anything once and I very seldom turn away anything without at least a bite. I don’t understand the crazy people out there who eat disgusting things just for the shock value or to entertain on TV. There are only two things I have never been able to enjoy. Cilantro and Brussels sprouts. There … I have confessed.
I have discovered I am not the only person in the world to feel this way. There is even a website called ihatecilantro.com. That’s how serious it is! There is some discussion that the aversion to cilantro might be hereditary.
The strange thing is, I love the aroma and taste of coriander which is the seed of the cilantro plant and is used extensively as a flavoring in South African cuisine. Cilantro smells and tastes like perfumey soap to me and has ruined so many great Mexican and Indian dishes for me. I am trying to like it but at my age I’m not betting on any changes in my taste buds soon.
Brussels sprouts I can handle if I cook them myself. I steam first (gag at the smell!) and then sauté in olive oil with shallots, garlic, bacon, and lemon. Like to get them a little brown on edges, then finish with a touch of balsamic vinegar and butter, salt and ground pepper! Actually, with all that, you could leave the Brussels sprouts out and it would taste pretty good!
So unless it’s my night off or the chefs have started a revolution you will very seldom see cilantro and Brussels on the menu at the Bijou Café. There is a whole world of other food out there so who is going to miss those two culinary varmints!
Photo above: Little JP at boarding school. No, just kidding, it was not quite that bad!