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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Grist for the Mill » The King of Fruit

   
Author Topic: The King of Fruit
MattLeo
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I was in my local Asian market, and noticed that they have a freezer case full of durians, known to many as the "king of fruit". If that is true, I'm thinking the durian must be Richard III, or Lucius Tarquinius Superbus.

Now eating a durian is something I believe every writer should try at least once. It is an intense, nearly indescribable experience. Anthony Burgess reportedly compared it to eating a sweet raspberry blancmange in a foul public lavatory.

Have you ever tried durian? How would you describe the flavor?

This was what it was like for me: The fruit came frozen and covered in multiple sheets of plastic wrap -- about the only safe way to have it in the house. I defrosted it outside. When I unwrapped it I retched at the overwhelming odor of rotting meat. The fruit itself is about the size of a dinner roll, but dense in my hand, about the heft of a water balloon. It is skinless and the lovely yellow of ripe mango flesh, but has a slightly sinister sheen.

Bringing the fruit to my lips, my nose is invaded by a penetrating, sulfurous reek, so assertive that for a brief moment it drives out every other physical sensation -- like getting a snootful of water in a pool with way too much chlorine. When I work up the courage to bite into the fruit, that eye-watering reek saturates my head, only now the garlic note has been overtaken with the sewer stink of ammonia. This is how I imagine those old Parisian pissoirs must have smelled. The flesh, however, is intensely sweet aand the texture is astonishingly luscious, something like a very ripe peach but more custardy than juicy.

Finally, just as I think my nose must be burned out I get a hint of something. Not raspberry, although close; maybe raspberry overlaid with a hint of honeysuckle or clover honey. It's a glorious finish to a ghastly experience.

A durian has to be the strangest, most alien thing I've ever tried in a lifetime of sampling strange foods. I've eaten jellyfish, rattlesnake, escargot, sweetbreads, you name it. The idea of these things might be weird, but in truth they're just food. A durian is something different altogether. It might be the food of the gods, but they'd have to be Lovecraftian gods.

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History
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Well done, Matt. Great description.
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by History:
Well done, Matt. Great description.

Thank you, but does it make you want to try one?
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Merlion-Emrys
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The whole "fruit of Lovecraftian gods" thing kinda does for me.
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legolasgalactica
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The rotting meat, sulfur, chlorine, sewer stink of ammonia kind of overwhelm the redeeming qualities for me. Might like to see one and offer it for dares at work, but after reading your eloquent description, I'd pass, myself.

What do you think of persimmons?

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Makes me wonder if they aren't a kind of palate roulette (with the roulette aspect similar in kind, but not in degree, to eating fugu?).
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legolasgalactica
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This article gave me a slightly different t impression:
http://i.gadling.com/2011/09/08/learning-to-love-durian/

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by legolasgalactica:
This article gave me a slightly different t impression:
http://i.gadling.com/2011/09/08/learning-to-love-durian/

I don't doubt there are varieties that are more appealing to the neophyte. But what is curious to me is that these are the exception, not the rule. That tells me that most durian fans want the full experience.

The flavor and texture of the durian really is sublime, and I suspect a tame durian might lack something, even if very good. Durians are very high in glutamate -- the amino acid responsible for the umami taste. Some have compared durian to cream cheese, and I think that's the umami talking.

Umami is also responsible for the meaty taste of meat. There's definitely a meat-like component to the durian taste profile, which combined with certain sulfurous odors is interpreted as "rotting meat" to the neophyte, but aas something else by someone used to the fruit.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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So, to appreciate this, you have to have your nose desensitized?
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
So, to appreciate this, you have to have your nose desensitized?

No, you need your brain desensitized. It's a natural human reaction to approach something new as if it were harmful, and durians happen to give off a lot of spurious danger signals. It is not rotten, or contaminated; it's just has a broad suite of powerful odors which attract scavenging animals. Even carnivores like tigers are known to eat it.

It's not only harmless, its nutrition profile is amazing. Compared to, say, an apple, it has 6x the protein, 25x the fat, 1.5x the dietary fiber, and across the board far more vitamins and minerals, in some cases by a factor of 100. It's practically a miracle food -- if you can bring yourself to eat it.

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extrinsic
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Considering a durian stone is large and the species tends to grow in nutritionally poor soils, a strong and distinctive aroma probably attracts ideal foragers for spreading the offspring appropriate distances from the mother tree.

I wonder, though, if durian aromas and tastes might be as different as fresh off the vine ripe fruits are, compared to market prepped and handled and shipped fruits. Durians probably have markedly different qualities develop across their vine to consumer paths and spans. Maybe that they only grow in tropical climates is socially conscience though. The aromas can be alienating in markets, on public transportation, and in dining places.

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Robert Nowall
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I can't say I've ever eaten durian, though I've seen pictures.

Sometimes these exotic fruits reach the market in somewhat bad form---I don't know whether it's travel or being grown outside its native climate or whatever. For instance, I've found carambola ("star fruit") extremely bitter every time I've had it, something the literature doesn't warn of much...

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