Durian: the King of Fruits
Often after having written and published a blog, I have no idea what to write about for the next one. No idea. Luckily, I am reading a very good book called Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert where she talks about inspiration to be an artist and having no fear. I decided in that moment to not have fear about writing a blog about Durian.
I had never even heard of Durian until I tried a smoothie in Austin, Texas around 7 years ago. I forgot all about it until around 2 or 3 years ago when my friend Christabel moved to Bali and she occasionally posted pictures and her positive opinions about this very controversial fruit. I was curious but didn’t think much of it.
One day in Shanghai about 2 years ago, my husband went out for the whole day to play golf. I found myself with nothing to do and at some point went out to the market near our apartment. On the street on the way to the market there was a young man selling Durian fruits out of his truck. It cost about 50 RMB or $8 for the whole fruit which weighed around 5 pounds. I didn’t know how to open it so he cut if for me and put it in a plastic bag. The bag immediately erupted into holes now slashed by the Durian spikes. As I walked home to my apartment and rode the elevator to the 37th floor holding my treasure, a small Chinese girl cried because she was afraid of the spikes. I ran into my neighbor and good friend, Lesley, and told her I bought the whole fruit. She was astounded and said, “You didn’t!! I did not understand the implications. During the first few hours I tasted the fruit and loved it. I took the gooey pods out of the weird spikey casing and put it away in the fridge in very tight glass dishes with tight plastic lids. Soon afterwards I noticed that the kitchen was starting to smell. I ate as much as quickly as I could but the distinct smell of onions and rotting garbage was becoming more pervasive in the apartment. I had to throw out the last quarter as I was unable to finish it and I feared the wrath of Bob. Indeed, Bob came home and complained about it.
Here is what I wrote in my blog in June 2014 about it:
“I have been trying lots of fruit and one of the most memorable is durian from Southeast Asia. Long ago, I had tried durian in a smoothie at a juice place in Austin. It was delicious and I had hoped to run into it again. [The best part of it was the drink’s clever name: Girls on Film. Get it? Duran Duran?] Last Saturday, I bought a durian from a kid with a tiny truck on the street. I paid 54RMB ($8) for it and hope I didn’t get too ripped off. It weighed around 2.5 kilos. I find I get less ripped off by men fruit sellers as opposed to the Shanghainese alpha bitches with their purse-carrying husbands cowering at the back of the store. Needless to say, it was a smelly affair – although durians taste like sweet almond cream, they smell like a family of dead animals rotting under your home. I am still glad I ate them but I had to throw out the remaining one quarter because the whole apartment was beginning to smell, seeping out through the fridge. Bob would walk in and loudly say…wtf is that?! Did you know that Durians kill about 5 people a year from falling out of trees?” My brother-in-law says this number of deaths does not include those who live in Durian producing regions and then just end it all after they can’t take smelling it any more. I like what Wiki had to say about it: “The edible flesh emits a distinctive odour that is strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the durian as having a pleasantly sweet fragrance; others find the aroma overpowering and revolting. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust, and has been described variously as rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage. The persistence of its odour, which may linger for several days, has led to the fruit’s banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.
See whole blog post here https://www.floramotion.net/?p=762
Flash forward almost 2 years and my friend gives me a durian in California. It was frozen and he bought it at Ranch 99, an Asian supermarket in the Bay Area. I was touched and horrified at the same time. I put it in my car and drove home about 45 minutes and my car began to smell already. Upon arrival at my house, I noticed it was still a little frozen but I cracked into it and started eating it that afternoon. Luckily Bob was traveling and though I told him about it, he wouldn’t have to endure the odiferous fruit. The inevitable stink started later in the day. I ate the last of the Durian in my morning smoothie the following day and then out went the dangerous, spikey carcass into the green bin. Bam! Durian victory! I got to eat and no one gave me bad time.
The worst smelling thing ever…our apartment smelled like a dead animal was rotting under our floor. Airlines and hotels won’t let it in. And the taste…either love it or hate it. No middle ground on this one.
True, you Durian hater!
After I graduated from law school, I traveled around Africa with a backpack. My introduction to Durian came on the Mapinduzi, a leaking, rusty re purposed Great Lakes freighter that wallowed between Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and Zanzibar Island. It was a sweltering hot day, I was a little seasick, and the cargo included durian. As I lay up on the deck, I thought we were hauling carcasses, or that people had died below decks. I did not believe people who said it was fruit. The Mapinduzi sank in 2011.
I am aware of the very strong feelings people have of it. My friend Christabel ate one on a plane from Thailand to Bali! She got dirty looks but was not thrown off.
A colleague once brought one to the office. I could smell the awfulness as soon as he entered the waiting room of the suite. Although I am adventurous in trying new foods, this was beyond my capacity and I asked the colleague to take it away
It repulses most people. The smell is so hard to get over but it actually tastes good. I used to go by it in the supermarket and just smell it.
Maybe a treat at a picnic where it can be shared quickly and the remains wrapped in many layers of plastic and. buried deep in the earth. (Or is that illegal??!!)
I would certainly taste that fruit–intriguing. Thanks for sharing.
Read the Massage blog this morning, June 20, 2016. It’s descriptive, sensitive, amusing–and I can feel that you miss those days. My view.