Confession: I've lived in the Philippines my entire life — that's 22 full calendar years — and I've never eaten durian.
Durian is a fruit native to Southeast Asia and is distinctly known for its strong (read: foul) odor.
It's a pretty large fruit with a husk covered in thorns. In the Philippines, durian is largely grown in Mindanao, particularly in the Davao region.
From where I came from, durian — like balut — is always a hit or miss. Personally, I never really thought about it. Probably because I live far away from where the fruit is cultivated. Plus, no one in my family is crazy enough about it to actually buy one from the local supermarket where it's made ~easily accessible~.
I only see (smell?) durian at the fruit section of groceries. Putting a stinky fruit inside a closed, air conditioned room is not the best idea. But grocery shopping is a chore I actually enjoy.
I am the Miranda Priestly of grocery shopping. I have a strategy, and part of that strategy is to avoid the fruit section as much as possible. The reason I do this is because the smell of durian morphs my face into Miranda's when Andy couldn't tell two very different belts apart.
Whoever first discovered durian and said, "Hey, guys! Check out this stinky fruit! It's a stinky fruit! We should eat this stinky fruit! " is probably too tired of living in this world to do such a risky thing. I mean, if the smell alone doesn't put you off — it smells like shit, there I said it — then the appearance should do the job.
Dude, if you see something spiky and stinky, you don't eat it! You stay away from it! If jackfruits were Charmander — edgy, but also cute and harmless — then durian is Charizard; you don't mess with it unless you're looking for trouble.
Pictured left: Jackfruit
Pictured right: Durian
Not pictured: Me, cowering from the durian's huge spikes
But somehow durian found its way to civilization, and so here we are.
Now, I am not a picky eater. Give me sticks of isaw and fishballs and I'll finish it in seconds. I've eaten wood worms in Palawan. As I write this, I'm eating rice crackers with labels I can't read. There's only a handful of food I don't eat. (I'm looking at you, catfish. You scare the bejeezus out of me.) I'll try anything once — except meth. Don't do meth, kids.
So when my dad came home one night bearing the spiky, stinky stuff from Davao, I knew it was my responsibility to try it for the very first time. I wrote a mental note that I wasn't only doing this for myself, but also for every Filipino who hasn't tried it in their lives. I got you, guys, I gotchu.
The first dilemma was cracking open the little fucker.
I didn't know whether to use a knife or just straight out throw it against the wall. The second option is fool-proof, but I didn't want to get into trouble (my mom is kind of a Monica Geller). So I asked my dad what to do.
He took a small paring knife and poked the durian at the bottom. And just like that, the fruit was easily split in half, revealing the gem inside.
I made another mental note concluding how some people are just like durian: all it takes is a simple poke in the butt for them to show you what they got inside.
Once it was open, the smell intensified by 50%. It was the kind of smell that lingers in your nose. When you get a whiff of it, you can actually get the idea of what it tastes like.
It was by then that I remembered that durian is called "The King of Fruits." Probably because all the other fruits in the kingdom were too scared of him to fight for the crown.
I got my hands in there and pinched the pale yellow flesh. I expected a firm, kind of segmented citrus texture, but it was soft and fibrous. If you're not careful enough in handling the flesh, you might squish it into an ugly state.
Much like some people: just because they have a strong exterior, doesn't mean they don't have anything delicate and sensitive inside.
You can tell from the blurry-ness of this photo how shaky I was. From the excitement, of course.
With eyes closed, I put the piece into my mouth. The smell was too overwhelming for me to figure out the taste.
I tried it again. This time without hurrying to gulp it down. Its texture in my mouth was creamy, kind of like melted ice cream. And yes, you're still reading BuzzFeed dot com the website, not reading Fifty Shades of Grey.
I expected the most traumatizing gourmet experience ever. I thought it was gonna taste like baby food. Except that the baby food was already digested and out of the baby's butt.
But the taste wasn't that bad. In fact, I actually really liked it. I finished one segment by myself right then and there — much to my mother's disgust. But I didn't care. Sure, I didn't have the greatest first impression of durian. But believe it or not, the smell was easily forgotten once I'd tasted it.
It's not exactly sweet, but more milky and creamy. I was actually surprised to find it tastes N O T H I N G like the way it smells. You bite into it and the milky goodness oozes into your mouth, which I like. Mr. Grey would be so proud.
After another plateful of durian the next day and a breath that smelled like butt hole, here's what I learned:
• Holding your breath doesn't help. Embrace the stink.
• Since it's very fibrous, durian helps improve bowel movement. I only experienced this firsthand but I also Googled it like the true millennial that I am.
• If you have a strong gag reflex, you probably shouldn't go for it. Maybe try durian flavored candies, instead?
• You can do all sorts of things to fresh durian. Durian shake, anyone?
Pictured left: Durian candy
Pictured right: Durian shake
Not pictured: Me, drooling and wanting to try these goodies ASAP
• Do not eat durian before a very important meeting/a date/anything that requires you doing something with your mouth.
• If you're gonna store it in the fridge, be ready for the smell every time you open it. It doesn't matter if you put on a lid.
• Which reminds me: don't store the leftovers in an airtight container. Your mom would never be able to use it again and you'll never hear the end of it.
It's not worth it to buy a whole durian if you're only gonna eat it alone.
• Because you won't be able to finish it by yourself;
• And it will turn into a watery mess if you don't finish it fast enough. Even if it's in the fridge the whole time.
Also, there's a reason why some people go crazy for durian.
• Some things may be hard to figure out at first, but if you ~poke~ them in the right place, you're gonna be fine.
• Physical appearance doesn't matter. "What is essential is invisible to the eye (or nose)," I heard a fox say once.
• If one could just learn to look past the ugliness of something, imagine what the world would look like — a bit stinky, maybe, but definitely a better place.
• Just because you didn't like something the first time, doesn't mean you wont like it ever. Sometimes all it takes is another try.
In conclusion, I'd say I regret that I haven't been eating more durian in my lifetime.
And so, with a toothbrush in hand, I'd make up for the last 21 years of durian-less life. Thank you, durian. I'd hug you, but I'm still quite freaked out by your spikes.