When I was seven my dad coaxed me into eating a clam by comparing it to a gummy bear. The analogy (or, well-intentioned falsehood) required a stretch of the imagination, but got the clam into my mouth. And while, even at seven, I understood the “gummy bear perspective” from textural standpoint, I knew had been bamboozled.
Being seven, and my dad being my dad, this was not the first time I’d been convinced to eat something against my wishes, so I took no offense the clam’s complete lack of confectionary qualities. In retrospect, I was really not surprised at all. Santa Claus might fly over rooftops, I might be an Olympic speed skater someday, and it might be common knowledge that the uglier dolls get very jealous of new toys so they require a designated playtime so they don’t turn evil, but from the get-go, I knew that this thing would never be a gummy bear.
I also knew, that refusal of the clam would be in vain. Too many times had I declined a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on my spaghetti, only to find a pile of the stuff appear on my plate. This was a typical scene at my family table.
In the end, I quite enjoyed the clam and today, I pride myself on being a relatively adventurous eater. (Thanks Dad). I recount this story because in a month, my daring will be put to the test when I travel to Singapore.
I have this incredible opportunity to travel to Southeast Asia because I was invited to go by my Co-Conspirator of Adventure and Food (an official title), who was offered an amazing job there for three months. There will be so many stories to tell while I’m there and I intend to do much writing.
I set off on my adventure in March and until that time, I will be reading a lot about Durian.
Yes. Durian. And I’m a little nervous.
About the size and shape of a football and covered in prehistoric-looking spikes, the Durian fruit is banned and outlawed in many public spaces and by airlines in Southeast Asia. Growing mainly in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, Durian is famous for its nauseating smell. Harold McGee, in On Food and Cooking, compares the odor to “onions, cheese and meat at various stages of decay.” Still, it is one of the most prized and mysterious fruits in the world.
With some research of what lays before me, I have discovered that the stench and retch-producing sulfur compounds exist primarily in the fruit’s rind, while the “custard-like” interior is extremely high in sugar and has a more palatable fruit-like flavor. Therefore, it’s just a matter of getting past the smell to get the sweet fruit into your mouth. The problem being that my nose is awfully close to my mouth and difficult to avoid when things are placed in the general, face vicinity. While the desirability of such a retched smelling fruit mystifies the bejesus out of me, I’m excited to discover why it is coveted by so many. Either this is a massive scale retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” or there is truly something to be found here.
I think back to the clams and I am in search of a gummy bear-type analogy to keep in my back pocket for when I am face-to-face with the Durian. If only they weren’t outlawed on planes, I could bring one back for my dad.