Thursday, March 20, 2008

DURIAN, AND ON...


By this point, you were probably wondering whether my velvet fingertips would ever again stroke the nape of this lonely blog’s neck. To be honest, I was wondering the same.

My life has experienced a tectonic shift over the past few months. In most ways, it’s better. In some ways, it’s worse. But that’s the way life is.

A byproduct of that shift has been a severe curtailing of my blogging time…and energy. Especially blogging energy. I am, quite simply, much busier now. And when a sliver free time presents itself at the end of each day, I don’t want to sit in front a computer and write blog posts. I want to sit in front of a TV and watch “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.”

Christ! What a friggin’ great show!!!

But today I am forcing myself to post. Why? Because I’ve achieved an important life’s goal, and the world needs to hear about it.

* * * * * *

I first learned of durian during an episode of “Michael Palin’s Full Circle ” that I watched in the mid-1990’s. I was intrigued by the prospect of this exotic Asian fruit. A fruit that looked like a rugby ball covered with spikes and is reportedly so stinky that it has been banned from buses and airlines in some countries.

Mr. Palin described durian as being like, “A very smelly custard…rather revolting, really.” But my friends ChiChi and Daffy in Singapore describe it as, “Heavenly.” All things being equal, I don’t take food advice from Brits—Mr. Ramsay notwithstanding, of course.

The durian challenge had therefore lodged itself firmly in my psyche, and I would not rest until I had—for better or for worse—tasted a smelly mouthful. So I embarked on a fervent search for durian in Spain.

Spain, of course, isn’t exactly a “strongly-flavored food-friendly” country. The Spanish seem to believe that strong foods—much like that other risky vice, ice water—causes sore throats, pneumonia and, when conditions are right, death by spontaneous combustion. So…I spent a fair amount of energy criss-crossing Spain trying various means of scoring a durian.

I begged the owners of Thai restaurants in Barcelona and Madrid. Deal or no deal? Hmphff…no deal.

I asked my boss at Acme Low Carb Tongue Depressors, Inc. if he would bring me some when he returned from a business trip to Singapore . He agreed! I was thrilled!!!

When he returned from the trip empty-handed, however, he explained. “I couldn’t bring it on the airplane. It smelled like shit.”

After several years of fruitless (literally and figuratively) efforts, I gave up. I resigned myself to the fact that my dying breath might be tainted with the perfume of absinthe—but certainly not with the funky stench of durian. I accepted fate. I was at peace.

Until.

My accordion-squeezing, babushka-wearing, Polka-dancing girlfriend Agatha and I were shopping at H-Mart—an Asian super, supermarket in the Chicago area. And RIGHT THERE—wedged between the fermented dung beetle sweetbreads and the yak’s dong carpaccio—was the King of the Fruits.

We scooped-up the booty, paid the cashier and rushed home.

I then sharpened an 8 inch chef’s knife, laid the durian on a cutting board, and…BONZAI!!! Split the elusive bastard in two before he could escape.

Gazing from afar, I was smitten by the pleasing aesthetics of its multi-chambered, creamy innards. And then—bending over and crinkling my nose—I took a good, long whiff.

I’ve read that durian smells like garbage. I’ve read that it smells like well-ripened gym socks. I’ve read that it smells like poo. But I disagree.

Durian smells like…rotting garlic. Yes, that’s exactly what it smells like. Rotting garlic.

But I wasn’t there to smell. I was there to taste. And once I became acclimated to the King’s formidable funk, I pulled-out a handful of its creamy flesh and took a bite.


Awesome! Addictive, even!

The initial retronasal blast of eye-watering foulness passed quickly. And once my vision and sinuses cleared—I was in heaven.

Durian’s texture is incredible. Rich…creamy…it feels on the tongue like a very firm crème brulee. The taste is mild and slightly sweet. But again…it was the custard-like texture that I couldn’t resist. Nor could Agatha. I ate an entire half of the durian; she nearly finished the other half.

If durian has a love/hate relationship with the human palate, it also (reportedly) has a love/love relationship with the human libido. There is a saying in Singapore that goes, “When the durians go down, the sarongs go up.”

So, you might ask, did the sarongs go up that night? Well…let’s just say that the aphrodisiacal properties of durian are more theoretical than practical.

I mean…would you really want to kiss someone with breath like rotting garlic?

5 Comments:

At 12:32 PM, Anonymous King da Cat said...

"...became acclimated to King's formidable funk."

Wha' da?!?!?!?! You sayin' dat I have funk?

 
At 2:56 PM, Blogger Pam said...

Some of the hotel rooms we were in recently in SE Asia had the red circle/slash universal sign for "No Durian."

Rotting garlic is the kindest description I've heard yet of how durian smells.

 
At 5:14 PM, Blogger Michael said...

I'm so glad that you were strong enough and brave enough to tempt this. I've seen this fruit many times but have always been afraid to pick it up because I have delicate hands.

Thank you for doing this so I don't have to!

 
At 9:55 AM, Blogger CanadianSwiss said...

Rotting garlic? Uhm. Thans, but I'll pass this time, no matter how creamy.

 
At 9:41 PM, Blogger christina said...

Wow, you almost (almost!) make this stuff sound appetizing. Which I'm sure it is, if it weren't for the smell. I'm gettin' all queasy just thinking about it.

 

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