Strange Allure

The Durian is indeed a strange fruit. An unfriendly spiked shell with a powerful lingering smell that is either putrid or heavenly depending on which side of the great divide you stand. It is outlawed in taxis, most hotels, hugely expensive compared to the many other fruits available and right now, the season is in full swing.

It changes the local urban landscape. Small vendors set up shop out of the back of their cars, larger trucks and stalls are strung up with lights and in the cool of the evening the hustle and haggle of durian trade ensues for the length of the season. Those unwilling or unable to take the rank fruit home are afforded aluminum tables for an immediate roadside feast.

Last year I didn't eat a single one. Many years (maybe twenty) of abstinence living abroad made up part of my reluctance - the smell requires a leap of faith to dive through to reap the rewards of the complex sensory pleasures that follow. The other part is the now somewhat complex variety of cultivars and clones on offer, many of them with both inscrutable and unattractive names like D168. Inevitably unable to decipher which to buy, I would opt for the other fruits that also coincide with durian season- more of that in another post.

This year however a phone call from one of my Dad's old students alerting us that he was bringing over some durians from another alumni who owns a fruit farm broke the spell. In minutes he was over with four durians reminding me also of how we used to get  durians. Not from a bustling roadside stall but from a friend or neighbor who had been out of town and brought back a haul perhaps from family in a rural area or from a farmer on the roadside. My grandfather, a lawyer, who sometimes did pro bono work for rural folk would often be paid in kind come durian season of a bushel of fruit.

And so I came to be reaquainted with the strange allure of this native fruit, one almost impossible to describe.  Custardy, creamy, sweet, rich it packs a powerful sensory punch and by day four when we got to the fourth one and it was a dud with spoilt fruit, the disappointment seemed to strike a little deeper than expected. Is it it's high tryptophan content that hooks you? Am I really thinking I might have to buy some at the market next week to score a fix. Yes, I think I might have to.

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