Rabu, 11 April 2012

The Smell Of Durian

Many Asian foods are alien to westerners. Insects, horseshoe crab eggs, and sum tam or spicy mango salad easily come to mind as foreign to the tongues of farangs, however the most unacceptable Oriental delicacy is the ever-malodorous durian.

The stench of this squishy fruit is so disagreeable to non-aficionados that durian joined hand grenades and land mines on the list of dangerous objects you’re not supposed to bring into a hotel room.

Not anymore, for a Thai botanist Dr. Songpol Somsri has created a durian without the pungent odor, which he named Chantaburi No. 1. “No smell, good taste.”Personally I like the smell and taste of durian. At least in Thailand, where it is eaten in a soft state.

In Malaysia the natives prefer the durian in a near-putrid ooze. I sampled some in Penang which had the consistency of a fetid cheese left in the tropical sun ie it was runny.

Jungle animals can smell this fruit almost a half-mile away and the travel and food writer Richard Sterling said of durian, “ … its odor is best described as pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock.”

Whatever its negative points, this raja of fruits has been reputed to possess aphrodisiacal properties, for both the Malays and Thais say, “When the durians fall, the sarongs fly up.”

Partially since if one of the spiky behemoths dropped on your head, you’d be KOed for a week. Most plantations these days have nets under the trees to prevent damage to the durian.

Not that anyone cares about the unsuspecting pedestrian.

I tried the amorous technique of smearing durian pulp on my body as a cologne. Not a single woman or girl or man or dog came near me, although the mozzies zeroed on my flesh like I was a blood donor.

Another danger is the fruit’s rich combination of carbohydrates, protein, fat and sulfurous compounds, which can be deadly for anyone with high blood pressure.

My wife didn’t eat durian for a year after my daughter’s birth, because Thais think that durian breath can kill a baby, but this new breed may erase that threat for newborns. Workers say the new durian only smells a little and the taste remains the same.

In 1856 the British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace wrote a much-quoted description of the flavor of the durian, “A rich custard highly flavoured with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavour that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes. Then there is a rich glutinous smoothness in the pulp which nothing else possesses, but which adds to its delicacy.”

Not many westerners would concur with his olfactory assessment, due to the durian’s sulfurous stench, although no scientific study could prove why the durian smelled like Gandhi’s underwear.

So no smell durian are sort of like roses these days.

Beautiful flower. No bouquet.

A rose is not a rose if a rose doesn’t smell to the nose.

Could the durian lose its appeal if it doesn’t smell?I have to go to the old classic adage.

A rose is not a rose if a rose doesn't smell to the nose. - James Steele

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