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Turns out, science is behind why the Barefoot Contessa will never use this popular ingredient.

Zee Krstic
August 22, 2018

 

It wasn't too much of a surprise when we learned that Ina Garten, the host of Food Network's Barefoot Contessa, absolutely detests pre-grated parmesan cheese. After all, Garten is a champion of using fresh ingredients (and she loves a good cheese plate). But the television star and cookbook author has another ingredient that she never uses—and it may have to do with her genetic makeup.

In an interview for the newest episode of the Munchies' podcast, Garten revealed that she never cooks with cilantro, and admitted she can’t stomach the notoriously polarizing herb.

"Hate it!" she tells Munchies. "I know people love it, and you can add it to the recipe. I just hate it. To me it's so strong—and it actually tastes like soap to me— but it's so strong it overpowers every other flavor."

Cilantro is a must-have for some home cooks, especially in dishes like tacos, guacamole, soups, and sauces—but Garten puts forward recipes that often call for the herb, well, without it.

"I like something that's kind of interestingly flavored, but as you eat it, you get layers, you know, the strawberries, a little zest of orange, a little sweetness, a little yogurt," Garten said. "You get all of those of those flavors in a balance. But when cilantro is in something, that's all I can taste. Everything else goes away."

More on how Ina Garten cooks in her kitchen:

But before you start wondering if there’s something wrong with the Barefoot Contessa’s palate, you should know that researchers found you can be genetically predisposed to hating cilantro—and those with the trait think cilantro has a "soapy" taste when consumed. It's become such an issue that 23AndMe, a popular DNA testing service, sells an at-home test that allows you to discover if you have the same aversion.

Many home cooks dislike cilantro because of family history (and where your ancestors came from), and something called "OR6A2," which is a gene that determines how your taste buds perceive the flavor of cilantro. According to research from Cornell University, if that gene is dominant rather than recessive, you'll be much more sensitive to cilantro’s powerful flavor profile.

While Ina seems to be firmly in the camp of “no cilantro”, there are certain things you can do to try and overcome any knee-jerk reaction to the herb. There's an entire online community thread on Reddit dedicated to people who naturally find the herb repulsive, with tips such as carefully removing the stem, which retains most of the pungent flavor.

Maybe Ina could learn how to love cilantro from them, too.

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