As much as I loved Cambodia, I am bored to tears writing about it. Jeff is working on a guest blog on the Killing Fields, but I am feeling like I have beaten this topic to death and turned my Favorite Trip Ever into something akin to Aunt Lola's Four Hour Slide Show On Her Trip To Vancouver. So, we digress for a moment into a Fruit Lesson.
Anne B. is out there jumping up and down right now waving her arms (which she does periodically when we discuss fruit). "Yes! The Durian! I know the Durian!" One of the other Anns, the one who lived in Malaysia, can probably dredge up the olfactory nightmare that is the Durian from the recesses of her brain. Although she might be cursing me right about now for reviving it.
You, dear non-Ann(e) reader, should thank whichever merciful deity you chose if you do not know the Durian.
The Durian is a fruit that defies all laws of natural selection. By which I mean, that fruit should be appealing. Fruit should be appealing, of course, in that the point of fruit is to distribute seeds. In order for seeds to be distributed, generally, some critter or another carries off the fruit for consumption. From my perspective, the Durian loses on all counts.
First off, the sucker is huge and covered with spikes. People who harvest these things are recommended to wear construction hard hats to prevent accidental death by Durian + gravity. So, few critters on earth are big enough or tough enough to carry one of these spiky puppies very far.
And, second, well, remember that mention of an "olfactory nightmare?" Let's let Wiki share this charming bit: "the edible flesh emits a distinctive odour, strong and penetrating even when the husk is intact. Some people regard the Durian as fragrant; others find the aroma overpowering and offensive. The smell evokes reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust.
Here's another take:
British novelist Anthony Burgess writes that eating Durian is "like eating sweet raspberry blancmangein the lavatory." Chef Andrew Zimmern compares the taste to "completely rotten, mushy onions." Anthony Bourdain, while a lover of Durian, relates his encounter with the fruit as thus: "Its taste can only be described as...indescribable, something you will either love or despise. ...Your breath will smell as if you'd been French-kissing your dead grandmother."
Travel and food writer Richard Sterling says: .. "its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia."
But, check out these photos! People all over Asia eat these things! While these photos are all from Cambodia, the Durian is available in my local Suguo during the Durian season! They are popular! And beloved! AND, as it turns out, I am also dead wrong on the natural selection bit. There are many animals who find this stuff delectable! Largish animals who manage to paw through the spiky exterior, swallow the seeds and re-deposit them far, far away from the parent plant. So, despite (some!) human deep disgust, the Durian does seem to be getting its seeds spread around to propagate the species.
And just how bad does it smell, you might ask, wrinkling up your nose in disgust? Bad. Really, really bad. I confess, I don't know how it tastes. I do promise that at some point I will pop one of these bad boys open and try it. Because, how can you not?? Aren't you curious?? And yet, I have not worked up my nerve to date. Probably around the same time someone finally convinces me to give Nanjing Stinky Bean Curd a go, I'll break open a Durian. I'll let you know how it goes.