What’s That Smell?

by Matt on June 27, 2006


* This posting has been updated. Notes are at the end *

My partner Adam has always been such an accommodating soul. He didn’t utter a peep when a catering company trekked through our home for 3 days for a photo shoot. He doesn’t complain when he becomes my unofficial recipe tester sans payment, and he graciously accompanies me on food journeys from our neighborhood all the way to South America, never once complaining or fussing about the things I put him through. He even skinned a cow’s head and removed the eyes because I just couldn’t do it.

I’ve oftened wondered when the breaking point would arrive, when he’d say “Ok Matt, enough is enough”,  forcing me to silently acquiesce and put down the knife/pen/computer mouse and give in.

Today, it happened. And I can’t believe it was over a piece of fruit.

Bye bye, Durian.

My bright ideas and desire to taste as much as humanly possible led me to my local Asian market to stock up on this large, powerfully pungent fruit. Anthony Bordain seemed to enjoy it on his recent television program, and one of my best friends from Indonesia swore I’d find it just as pleasurable as she did.

“Oh yes, it smells a little bit, but I know you’ll love it. You eat some pretty far out stuff.”

I guess I can officially put down Durian as one of the things I tried but just couldn’t get into it. And believe me, I tried. Durian, a large, spikey fruit, is native to Southeast Asia and is tough on the outside with a creamy, white soft flesh inside. It’s not the creamy, custard like texture of the flesh that got to me, and the fruit’s flavor notes weren’t bad either. The fruit’s demise seemed to be its smell, a combination of sour and sweet and rotten and oniony.  I now know the reason durian is banned in many public places, and I can’t say I’d disagree with them.

I don’t dare malign the food of another culture, after all, my people enjoy some pretty far out foods. But to say that the Durian smells like death warmed over, a combination of sweet and sulfuric compounds that have been put into a blender and left to age in a city sewer in August would be an understatement.

Call me uninitiated, a foreigner, whatever. I’ll gladly accept it when it comes to the pleasures of Durian. I tried to like it, I really did. However, Adam wasn’t as accepting.


“This cannot live here,” he said, referring to our kitchen. “You’ve got to get rid of this. This has got to go. Now.”

And with that, I took one last bite in an attempt to convince myself that I could love it as if I grew up with it.  And you know what? I failed. I couldn’t do it.

What are your thoughts on Durian?

**update** I want Anantya and Rosa to know that I apologize.

Whoa. I was totally and unnecessarily harsh on the fragrance of Durian. If there’s a food that warrants such reactions from people I like who truly love it then I can’t so easily dismiss it.  And I am going to give it another try. Very soon. After all, I am a person who loves tripe, and if you’ve ever prepared that at home, well, it has a smell all its own. Maybe I just need to ease into it. Slowly.  VERY S-L-O-W-L-Y.

Did I say S-L-O-W-L-Y ?

Will you forgive me? :)