(Cilantro) Black Bean and Lime Chili

Guest Contributor

by Guest Contributor on November 26, 2010

Craving something, anything that doesn’t involve poultry and gravy after yesterday’s carb-fest? Contributor Christine Miksis comes to the rescue with a controversial chili.

Who knew the question “Do you like cilantro?” would stir up such a commotion? Certainly not a cilantro lover like me. “Ugh, it tastes like soap. Please don’t put it anywhere near me, let alone in the chili!” one friend sneered upon answering the question. After this open declaration of repulsion towards the Chinese parsley, I started to frequently notice more and more haters.

I was intrigued, and so I Googled. What I found was that the cilantro segregation was much greater than what I had actually suspected. Upon my surprise, writers from the Wall Street Journal, NPR and the New York Times were also intrigued and covered the controversial topic fairly recently due to findings at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, where scientific research on smell and taste is conducted.

Scientists there began a study on the smell and taste of cilantro to figure out why there’s such a fuss over the herb. They were able to separate the different scent components of cilantro for study participants to smell individually, and found that people who dislike cilantro are unable to detect the “pleasant” scent component that those who love cilantro can sniff.

However, people who like cilantro are still able to smell the “soapy, unpleasant” scent component, yet still have an affinity towards the herb. The study concluded that generally the smell determines whether we like or dislike the herb. Specifically, the inability to detect the pleasant scent component of cilantro and only detect the unpleasant soapy one is the reason why certain individuals dislike it.

Whether you’re averse or not, cilantro is a common ingredient on menus in Latin America and Asia. Lovers appreciate its citrusy bite and clean, fresh scent. In the U.S., it is usually associated with Mexican and Southwestern dishes enjoyed in the summer with margaritas. However, I’m happy to pack up the cilantro and transition it over to Snuggie season this November, as I’ve recently discovered it also goes quite well with chili.

cilantro black bean lime chili
My chili recipe has been tweaked and edited over the past two years, but I just recently discovered the addition of cilantro made it perfect. However, this chili can certainly stand alone for those who are anti-cilantro. If you really like the herb, the ingredient combined with a squeeze of lime juice lends a summery dimension to the fall/winter comfort staple, not to mention a pretty pop of color for presentation as well.

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