Soap vs. cilantro: An (awfully) detailed analysis

Sarah Brumble

Sarah Brumble

I.      Title
        Soap vs. Cilantro: An (Awfully) Detailed Analysis of the Intersection of Genetics, Brands, and Taste. Or: Oh My God, I’m a Monster.

II.     Purpose
        In this experiment, “scientists” attempt to discover which of three soap brands tastes most like cilantro. Willing subjects ingested tacos topped with the herb, followed by tacos “garnished” with a variety of cleansing products, in blind-taste-test fashion.

Each participant brought her hypothesis to the table: Subject A anticipated Dawn dish soap to most closely mimic her lifetime of experience with cilantro; Subject B, a.k.a. your author, thought Irish Spring’s green color may prove revelatory (and expected everyone to get the sh*ts). Subject C supported A’s theory about dish soap. No one expected Dove to take the cake.

Despite demonstrating a combination of sound scientific methodology and madcap logic, results of this experiment remain… dubious, largely due to the fact that the study’s author is actually part raccoon.

III. Materials

13 - tacos from Los Ocampo in “carnitas”
Dove White Beauty Bars in “Moisturizing Cream”
Irish Spring Deodorant Soaps in “Original”
Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid in “Original Scent”
1 - bunch of cilantro (conventional)
South Minneapolis tap water, unfiltered
4 - dram jigger, procured from a “medical institution”
3 - teaspoons from the Brumble family silver
3 - chef’s knives, sharpened
2 - cutting boards
3 - saucers from Grandma Ginny’s good china (sorry, RIP)
1 - antique cut-glass bowl
1 - big “spit plate”
2 - blindfolds

Participants included:
Subject A - Crista Bell (lifelong cilantro-hater, unquestionable possessor of the so-called “soap-gene,” cannot imagine what it would taste like other than soap),
Subject B - Sarah Brumble (your author, who began questioning the nature of her reality after her 72-year-old father discovered just one month ago that, according to 23andMe, he’s spent his whole life possessing this cilantro-tastes-like-soap-genetic-variant, not only eating “soapy” cilantro, but also, and I quote, “not minding it so much.”)
Subject C - Em Cassel (City Pages’ Food Editor, unquestioning cilantro-lover aka the Human Control, signed up to “maybe” eat soap on Taco Tuesday, for funsies)

IV.      Methods

First, the bunch of cilantro was washed in tap water, divided in halves, and set aside for later.

Using the first cutting board, your author did her best to carve the Dove Bar into a square the size of an unfortunate cheese sample at Whole Foods. It crumbled like Extra-Sharp Tillamook Cheddar, refusing to remain in tidy squares. After washing the knife to prevent cross-contamination, the same maneuver was performed on the Irish Spring. More exact results followed than in the case of Dove (both pictured above), owing to the latter’s consistency akin to a fine gouda.

For accuracy, an attempt was made to weigh each soap portion on a postage scale, but neither cracked the (minimum) weight… and more would likely, actually, poison us. Use of the scale was foregone, and it was returned to its owner.

          Garnish Waters

Each soap block was mixed with their spoons until dissolved in 1 tablespoon of tap water. A similarly sized dollop of Dawn was blooped into its own cup and dissolved.

Using a clean knife and the remaining cutting board, half the cilantro bunch was chopped and put in an antique cut-glass bowl. The other half was crushed and finely minced before a portion equal to that of the soaps was put into a fourth dram jigger. This cup was filled with 1 tablespoon water, producing cilantro-water, thereby leveling the textural playing field across all garnish samples.


Participants were given their own piece of Grandma Ginny’s china to eat from. Pulling from the crystal bowl to garnish, Subjects A and B first ate tacos covered in cilantro, like normal humans. Subsequently, each taco was consumed in halves, while blindfolded, after Subject C used her finely honed editorial judgment to apply an equal portion of a random garnish water. Reactions of the blindfolded subjects were then recorded. Any unfinished, or unfinishable, tacos were deposited onto a large “spit plate” in the center of the table.

**A separate paper will be written elucidating why the finery of china, silver, and cut-glass were psychologically necessary for this experiment.

V.      Data

         The subjects consumed these five garnishes, in this order, provoking the following reactions, for the scientific edification of all:

Cilantro sprigs, as control
“It’s so gross. That’s what I imagine dish soap to taste like.” - Crista Bell

**blindfolded henceforth**

“It doesn’t taste that different.” - CB
“Are you serious? You poor bastard.” -SB
“Sarah you look so unhappy.” - EC
“Now, afterwards, I think it could have been one of the bar soaps because of the texture I feel in my mouth, but not because of the taste…” - CB
“You feel cleaner. Inside.” - SB

Irish Spring
“I’m so sad right now.” - SB
“That one’s way worse.” - CB
“I think that one’s Irish Spring.” - SB
“I think that’s Irish Spring, too. I have to spit it out.” - CB
“And here you thought you liked soap, Sarah.” - EC
“Anything’s possible…” - SB

“This smells like cilantro to me. Yeah, this tastes like cilantro to me.” - CB
“This… tastes like taco.” - SB
“I didn’t give you enough soap.” - EC
“This tastes like cilantro.” - CB
“Okay. I’m gonna finish it. [finishes taco]” - SB
“I would guess that was cilantro.” - CB
“That just tasted like taco, so I’m guessing it’s cilantro? Cilantro water, to be specific… but what if I like Dawn?”

“It… tastes like cilantro.” - CB
“It doesn’t taste like anything. UH OH. Oh this is terrible news for me. Two nothings in a row [is impossible]…” - SB
“I don’t know. They don’t taste that different to me.” - CB
“Alright. So… that was the cilantro one.” - EC
“OH NO. I just loved the Dawn one?!” - SB
“You just loved the Dawn one. You’re broken.” - EC

VII.      Results

           In post-experiment discussion, Subjects 1 and 2 agreed that the final two tacos were nearly indistinguishable in flavor. As a tie-breaker, Subject 3 was willing to eat a Dawn-covered taco, in a process she called “upsetting.”

After dipping a taco’s toe into the Dawn cup and taking a bite, she reported: “I get it in my nose, even. It feels like the worst version of eating a really fiery hot sauce. I can feel it in my whole sinuses.”

Unlike the study’s author, she felt strongly that she would not mistake it for cilantro.

To force Subject 3 to better understand where the others had been coming from, we suggested she eat a taco doused in Dove. Upon acquiescing, she reported the Dove taco to be “way worse” than the Dawn taco, which was all the experiment’s author was hoping to prove, especially since, to the known soap-gene-possessor, all but the Irish Spring tasted the same.

VIII. Conclusions

a) Never eat Irish Spring.
b) Two-thirds of subjects agree that Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid in “Original Scent” may prove an adequate substitute for cilantro in a pinch, but the mouth-feel is off. The third participant strongly dissents.
c) The author of this study is, unquestionably, a human dumpster.

Note: By “peer review,” no one had yet gotten the sh*ts from this experiment, much to everyone’s delight. Still, don’t do this -- again, there’s really no point.