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Augustinian Themes in the Culinary Article


The article under analysis “Cilantro haters- it’s not your fault” was an examination of why coriander leaves or cilantro elicits very strong negative reactions from some eaters and surprisingly pleasant responses from others but it also demonstrates striking resemblances with “confessions by Augustine.” The paper shall examine common Augustinian themes in this culinary article

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McGee (1) is looking at a habit that seems quite ordinary. One would simply dismiss the repulsion of cilantro as nothing more than a preference. However, the author shows that there is more to this observation than meets the eye. He uses historical, physiological and even chemical knowledge to explain this behavior and therefore shows that simple things in life actually denote deeper meanings. (Mc Gee, 9) In confessions, Augustine talks about the depth of simplicity. Previously, the latter individuals had practiced Manichaeism. He had been attracted to this faith because of the style of their texts and the impressive manner of the speech. Members of this group were regarded as eloquent and well bred. (Augustine, 82) In contrast, Christianity was presented in a simple fashion with poor language use in the Bible; it also had most of its adherents emanating from the lower class. However, after a long search for truth, Augustine came to realize that there can be deeper meanings in seemingly straightforward elements of the Bible and that one need not be fooled by complexities when seeking truth. (Augustine, 181) Mc Gee therefore echoes Augustine’s sentiments by explaining profound truths in a simple gastronomic practice.

In the culinary article, the author highlights how one’s experiences ultimately determine one’s choices. This stresses the importance of surrounding oneself with positive influencers. For instance, McGee (22) explains that people in the Mediterranean region and the Asian continent love coriander as a food because past experiences with the food are all pleasurable and they involve their families. On the other hand, people in the western world tend to experience less coriander and this closes their mind to the good that cilantro can bring. Similarly Augustine argues that one’s life experiences eventually lead them to their choices. For instance, he asserts that his mother’s words were instrumental in causing him to join the Christian faith (Augustine, 69). He also cites other influences that caused him to change his ways such as the drunkard of Milan, the death of his best friend Thagaste and the reading of Hortensius (Augustine, 81). All these experiences led him to his final destination which was a life of Christianity. McGee therefore propagates Augustine’s theme of finding answers in the people and the events that surround us as these shape and form human behavior.

Free will is another concept that emerges out of McGee’s article. He talks about Dr. Gottfield (McGee, 20) who used to despise cilantro but eventually made the choice to like it. The author therefore demonstrates that human beings are not bound by external forces that make decisions for them (such as history or genetics) but that one can make the choice to like or dislike a certain food even in the presence of these factors. This is an expansion of a prominent Augustinian theme; free will. Augustine asserted that human beings possess the ability to choose between good and evil and that suffering or pleasure arose out of exercising this free will. Choice can be found in the entire food article. McGee asserts that people can choose to start eating cilantro if they want to (McGee, 24) even though this might encompass doing so with relatively minimal amounts. He also explains that Dr. Gottfield chose (exercised his free will) to start eating cilantro by trying out different foods and that he is able to relate more with people because of this choice. Augustine felt that people had to deal with the consequences of their actions because they initiated those actions in the first place.

Augustine asserts that in order to find knowledge, one must constantly and actively seek for truth. He showed that this can be achieved by examining literature and studies on one’s matter of concern (Augustine, 8). For instance, he started by reading Manichaeism texts but found that the laws of this faith were too esoteric and their lack of belief in God’s omnipotence was shaky (Augustine, 121). He then went on to learn about Neoplatonism but he could not find his answers there as well. He subsequently interacted with people from the Christian faith, especially with Bishop Milan. He also read various texts and found that the answers he was looking for could only be found in Christianity:

“No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as if serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.” (Augustine, 8.28)

The latter piece indicates how it would have been difficult for Augustine to find knowledge if he had not gone looking for it. Similarly, McGee also does the same thing by following a similar path. First he establishes that cilantro hatred is a real phenomenon where he explains that there is even a facebook page for hating cilantro. McGee (3) then proceeds to find out why this food sparks off a lot of unpleasantness. He starts with genetics studies but quickly realized that these studies are not comprehensive (McGee, 6). He then goes to an anthropologist who gives him a history of cilantro use in sixteenth century Europe. (Mc Gee, 9) He then approaches flavor chemists who explain the chemical components of the plant (Mc Gee, 14) where readers are told about the aldehyde component prevalent in soap, bags and coriander. He then finishes off with information from a neuroscientist who offers a comprehensive explanation linked to social and biological functions of the body (Mc Gee, 20). All these aspects contribute to a greater understanding of the subject and therefore lead to accumulation of knowledge on eating habits and hence human behavior. Such revelations would not have been possible without the active initiative of the author.

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Four major themes stand out from the culinary article and they can both be seen in the actual material or the methods the author uses to search for material. These themes include: depth in simplicity, active seeking of truth through knowledge, importance of free will and the importance of experience in a human being’s life.

Works Cited

Mc Gee, Harold. “Cilantro haters- its not your fault” The New York Times, 2010.

Warner, Rex. The confessions of St Augustine. NY: Penguin publishers, 1963 (Translated).

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StudyCorgi. "Augustinian Themes in the Culinary Article." November 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Augustinian Themes in the Culinary Article." November 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Augustinian Themes in the Culinary Article'. 30 November.

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