I am one of those people that really struggles with the smell and taste of coriander. What a lot of people don’t understand is that is is not a choice for many of us, it is mostly down to the receptors in our noses (and mouth I think.) But worse, it means that many detergents and perfumes are also overwhelming to us, over and above what most people experience*.
So when something smells or tastes of soap to me? It is not what most people experience as soapy taste or smell. I have to use something like mint and/or eucalyptus oil to act a bit like mouthwash for my nasal passages (side note it has made me really wonder what smelling salts actually were for!**) But it also means I am so frustrated about missing out on the joy of coriander and what it does to the balance of a dish, so that I have really tried to understand the context.
As someone who has to do a cost/benefit analysis of every moment of every day, I like to make sure I have a good stash of spices and herbs. There are times when fibro makes textures or flavours overwhelming, so I like to have some very bland protein (tofu, egg whites, chicken) that is very fast to cook, that can then also be made more interesting at other times by spices.
For umami I have a few kinds of soy sauce as well as maggi seasoning, for heat I have sirracha, and then spice pastes or powder mixes and then also individual spices and herbs.
But fresh coriander? It will never not fill all my nasal spaces with the sensation of being submerged in dishwashing soap. But I keep trying to understand it so that I can recreate my favourite dishes with something that comes close to what most people experience.
Most people experience the citrus notes, and that was a bit of a revelation! Sometimes citrus peel is also overwhelming in the soapy sensation, but I do still experience the citrus notes enough that it helps to understand the role of fresh coriander.
I think I can use lemon peel (not pith, not juice) with dried coriander to get closer to the experience of most people. I have tried a few times and oh wow, so delicious.
But this also explains why I love the smell of lavender and roses! A lot of people hate them as they smell of perfume. But perfume to me is overwhelmingly of the soapy parts. So fresh lavender and fresh roses are a delight. Perfumes that are supposedly lavender and rose to me are soapy. And that probably means that people who are more immune to the soapy smells associate the experience with the floral notes.
Anyway, I’m currently sipping some Earl Grey tea with some lavender in a tea infuser and wondering what that experience is to most people. This is an attempt at recreating an Imperial Grey tea from a few years ago. I hoarded as many as I thought was reasonable but am now really missing that hug in a mug it offered. I do wonder if my tea fiend friends would like this as well. I know most of us love a specific cinnamon blend, but now I am asking myself if we experience that in the same way?
*There are other social factors, but I have genuinely tried so many ways and still am stuck. This is definitely made worse in a fibro flare, to the point even avocados wind up a truly negative experience.
**There are times I need to use these very volatile scents for sinus pain. It is usually due to inflammation of nasal passages (sinuses are connected via very fine channels, and the ends that start in nasal passages can be clogged with mucous or inflammation) and so it makes me really ask if people in the past used smelling salts for the same reason! We think of them in terms of rich white ladies who can’t handle reality, but what if it’s purely somatic?