Kaely Mayes 3/5/2009

Do You Smell That?

Indonesia is a beautiful wonderland, full of unique landscapes, exotic birds and food. The most exotic of their food comes from the vast variety of fruit. One of Indonesia’s craziest fruits is the Jamba Air, another one is called Mangga Madu and the list goes on. Yet, of all the fun and strange fruit, the Durian definitely is the strangest.

The Durian is a large, porcupine resembling fruit that is grown and served in South East Asia. The fruit’s name comes from the Malay word “duri” meaning thorn and the noun suffix “an”, which is a testimony to the fruits abnormal shape and size. This spiky fruit is considered a delicacy in many Asian countries and has a running price of $8.00 to $15.00 in the United States. There are even people willing to pay $50.00 for a dozen.

One would surmise that the Durianwould be the world’s most delicious fruit with that kind of publicity and price. What most consumers don’t realize is that this seemingly innocent delectable has a darker side. While the Durian is the prized ingredient in many restaurants and hotels, the raw pulp of the fruit is not permitted to be within fifty feet of many buildings or on public transportation. This is because the Durian is famous for being the world’s smelliest and most foul tasting fruit. Personal accounts of the fruits vary, but most agree on the fact that it is the most repulsing food product ever created. The stench has been compared to rotting

onions, dirty baby diapers, jock straps and the “thing”, which used to be cabbage stew, growing in my friend Dan’s crock pot for a month. In a study on the show Brainiac, they show just how bad the Durian really smells. It was easier for the test subject to stick his head in a box containing stale vomit, rotten eggs and dog feces; than it was for him to stick his head in a box with the Durian. The variety of smells comes from the fact that there are so many different types of Durian and thus, each have a unique smell. All of which happen to be stomach churning. The taste is just as awful as the smell. The inner pulp is the actual edible part of the fruit and has the viscosity of pudding. This too has a variety of tastes, depending on the type and one’s taste buds. Many people who like say it is an “acquired” taste and state that either you love it or hate it, there is no such thing as kind of like. Unfortunately for the fruit, most people who try it fall into the hate it category. The flavor has been described as sewage, turpentine, gym socks, mushy onion and other delicious adjectives. The taste is not the only thing about this fruit that scares people, it the texture of the pulp. People are used to fruit being a solid mass and filled with some kind of acidic juice, not the paste like substance of the Durian. To most people when you have to scoop fruit mush to eat it usually signifies that the fruit has spoiled, which would explain the extreme variation in fondness of the fruit.

While there is still much debate over the issue of why the Durian tastes and smells like dung, some scientists think they have found the answer. They found that the Durian contained high amounts of sulfur compounds and other not so nice smelling chemicals. This study has been repeated 3 times; in 1972, 1980 and 1995;and they found that the mix of repellent chemicals varies depending on region and type of durian, but no matter what chemicals are involved, the Durian still

reeks. Although the fruit is repugnant to most humans, many creatures from the animal kingdom love it. The smell of the Durian is said to permeate for up to half a mile and it entices many large animals to come eat it. This way the animal can help spread the seeds around by either disposing of the seed under the parent plant or by transporting it via fecal matter to another location. The strong stench is an adaptation to draw animals in to continue process of seeding that can help Durian spread its influence across the land and it creates room for genetic modification.

The Durian holds a high place in many hearts around South East Asia. This “King of Fruits” is not only a culinary choice, but an inspiration to many. While this fruit has yet to catch on in many Western countries, the people of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and Vietnam have welcomed the Durian into their lives and into their homes. The Durian is such an accustomed part of their lives that they even nickname important places and structures by the fruit. In Singapore the Esplanade building is affectionately called “The Durian” and Jakarta’s nickname is “The Big Durian”. One day the rest of the world will finally understand the significance of the Durian, but until then the world will still avoid the Durian at all costs.

"How smelly is the Durian?". YouTube.ocm. March 4, 2009 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQj-hFfmYkQ "Durian". Wikipedia. March 4, 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durian>. Note: My family and I have had this fruit before; it was a gift from my mom’s employees. Much of my information used was from personal experience by physically consuming the Durian. I have also watched many Travel Channel shows where they host goes around the world eating exotic food. I have seen many episodes where they try the durian.

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