Last week, for the first time in my life, I tried durian pudding. Durian is a fruit that doesn't grow in this country, but it is renowned in Asia for having a very strong unpleasant smell. So strong, in fact, that many vehicles such as taxis and buses will not allow passengers to have durian in the vehicle. Which is pretty impressive if you think about it, that a bus in 100 degree weather in Southeast Asia crammed full of sweaty people pushed together like a rush hour subway decides, "No, we really want to preserve this smell we've got going, durian fruit would be much worse."
But the taste supposedly is delicious and makes up for the smell. Anyway, you may be wondering where I got durian pudding, and the answer is that it was from an Asian market in Connecticut. Asian markets sell all sorts of delicious food that many people in America may not be familiar with, but appeal to those who enjoy the wide range of cuisines, or just pretending that they have a sophisticated palate. I like pretending that I am sophisticated, which is why I was excited that last week I finally got my chance to try food made from the infamous durian.
I have also always liked interesting foreign foods. Two decades ago, I went on a tour of Israel and Jordan with my father. During our travels we ate at a restaurant with a dessert buffet, where in addition to sampling many delicious kinds of baklava, there was a peculiar purple flan that tasted like shampoo. It was totally gross, and made me spit it out. We warned our tour-mate who was at the table with us to avoid that dessert, and he made fun of us for being dumb Americans without a sophisticated palate. He made a big deal of how much he was going to enjoy it, took one bite of it, and he made faces and spit it out too. We spent the entire rest of the meal just watching other people who had gotten that dessert from the buffet, watching their faces as they took the first bite and spit it out. Hilarious. It was the worst thing I have ever tasted in my entire life.
Until last week.
I don't think I can describe how awful this durian taste was. Words simply do not do it justice. Imagine the worst thing you've ever tasted. Now multiply it by 5, and add rotting meat that has been marinating in sewage. Now multiply that by 10, mix it with gasoline that has found a way to vomit, and you may be getting close to the recipe for durian pudding.
I barely managed to avoid throwing up after taking one bite, and was spitting and dry-heaving into the trash can. After rinsing out my mouth and brushing my teeth, I went for a walk to get some fresh air, and I smelled something in the air that made me relax and say "Ahh, that is a pleasant little odor with a much nicer smell than durian", and I realized that I had just smelled a skunk.
The worst part was that for the rest of the evening, every time I burped, I could taste it again. And I tell you this story for two reasons. First, if anyone ever offers you durian, you will know to run away as swiftly as possible. And secondly, at least now that you've read this column, I didn't eat the worst thing ever for no reason.
Seth Brown is an award-winning humor columnist, the author of "From God To Verse", and still loves Asian markets. His website is RisingPun.com.