So I begin with a question - What is an odour that stays with you long after you can smell it no more? The smell of sweat in a packed train? Of damp clothes in monsoons that just refuse to get off dried clothes too? The unbearably nauseating smell of stinky sock after a day spent within a tight shoe? Ok, no more no more..but imagine, if I tell you I have smelt a fruit that's all this and more?? A fruit that looks from the distance like our very own humble jackfruit ( come to think of it, the smell of ripe jackfruit too is a strong smell in my dictionary). But go closer and it turns out to be the vilest smelling fruit on the face of the earth.
The Durian is largely found in South East Asia - the Singaporeans, Malaysians and their neighbours consider it yummy. My sister-in-law, a Singaporean girl has atleast ten photographs on her facebook profile that look like an Ode to the Durian. Each time she longs for home or goes visiting, her mom would have lovingly set aside store-bought cling-film wrapped boxes of the fruit.
The first time I smelt it was in Singapore and I kid you not, I was sure someone standing next to me in the fruit bazaar had gone unwashed for about a month after being hit by rotten eggs. The lady at the market was perhaps used to dealing with foreigners and their absolute confusion at the smell surrounding her shop, knowing I was trying to sniff my way out of the dirty smell, she gave me a toothy smile, made a signal of clipping her nose and offered a piece of Durian to me. Unfortunately, there is little evidence of my reaction to the offering.
But if I may explain - I turned a pale shade of yellow, with my eyeballs rolled well into my lids, gasped for breath a few times and ran out of the stall and into fresh air. It took me another five seconds to realise that I had smelt the most offensive fruit that perhaps exists across the world. It took me another five seconds of sane thinking to associate the smell I'd just encountered to the smell of rotten eggs or H2S that often emanated from our chemistry lab in school.
I am yet to decipher how the South East Asians can make themselves immune to the smell and chow down on the fruit like it is going to run out before they can have their fill. I'm told (again reliably by the sister-in-law )that it is a tastier version of the jackfruit. For someone who can only stand the jackfruit when fried as chips in coconut oil, it is hardly much of a reccomendation!
But idle curiosity the other day borne out of some free time made me google - Why does Durian Smell So Bad? I hadn't typed farther than the Durian when google promptly threw up the suggestion - 'smell so bad?' Bingo! Indeed, that was my question. And the answers made me double up with laughter - one was that 'Because it is the King of the Fruits! Don't girls like bad boys? Well....almost the same theory lol'. The answer chosen as the best however was, The smell is to hinder non-enthusiasts, so the REAL durian-heads have more to eat! The Durian is a very loyalist fruit!!'
Loyalist or no, I must admit I often smirk and shudder when I see the NO DURIAN ALLOWED sign across a number of places in Singapore and Malaysia. That includes public transportation, hotels and even cabs!! :) Do you have a Durian experience to share too??