What do Bob Dylan and cilantro have in common? No, the 60’s rocker doesn’t have a propensity for Indian or Mexican food…to my knowledge. Nor am I going to deign to making a lame pun that morphs one of his song titles into an herb reference. I’ll save that for the title of this post.
No, in actuality, Bob Dylan and cilantro share a connection for me only with respect to my opinion thereof. You see, for as long as I can remember, I have had no great love for Bob Dylan. It’s his voice, mostly. That distinctive sliding off every other pitch like a sonic avalanche makes me want to call out for my own St. Bernard to alleviate the pain and bring me back to life. Overwrought metaphors aside, the raspy voice and his inflection make me shudder, and not in a good way. I have had countless dutiful apostles try to preach to me the good word of Dylan, but as yet nobody has converted me. The same ones have often also tried to tell me that Neil Young made music worth listening to, but that has and will continue to fall on deaf ears.
Similarly, while I haven’t exactly had cilantro-ites trying to bring me over to their side, my feelings about that particular herb could be accurately compared to those expressed above. It’s a pungent flavor, and once upon a time, I got a huge spoonful of soup that had an equally huge cilantro presence. Nearly gagging on that was all I needed to say “no thanks.” Henceforth, I was vigilant to avoid unexpected encounters with the stuff when eating.
But then something crazy happened. A couple years ago, I decided that I was going to give cilantro a chance to make its way into my good graces. While I didn’t go hog-wild with it at first, I made a point not to pick it out of salsa or things in which it was overtly present. Then I’d consciously make recipes that called for cilantro and actually put it in. And bit by bit, I discovered that, hey, it’s not so disgusting after all! Granted, there are still times when it catches me off guard, but overall I’ve come around. I even have (as yet unsuccessfully) tried to grow it in my kitchen to have around when needed.
This has been the case with other things in my life, too: black olives, certain types of music, and even, dare I say it, a decent portion of New Jersey. If I’m willing to give it a fighting chance, patiently trying a bit at a time, more often than not the “I don’t like _____” statement is replaced by “I used to not like _______, but I can now tolerate it in small quantities.” If I’m really lucky, sometimes it turns into “I really like that thing that I used to despise.” Something is certainly to be said for finding the spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down.
I say all this because last week was Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday, and as a result, one of the Philadelphia radio stations I pick up and listen to regularly was playing his stuff all day. Instead of making retching noises and changing the station the second I heard a harmonica, I decided that, no, I would give it a chance. And hey, it wasn’t totally intolerable. Honestly, I think what saved me is that I missed most of “Like a Rolling Stone.” I’m not totally sold, but I think there’s hope.
So, Mr. Dylan, we may be friends yet. Cilantro has shown me it’s possible. After all, the times, they are a-changin’.