When I was back trekking in Nepal, I ate dinner one of the nights with an interesting party of three Americans and a Nepali. One of them – a nineteen-year-old Minnesotan who’d saved up enough money to take a year off school and go traveling – had never, it turned out, even heard of, let alone eaten of, the Almighty Durian. He asked me what it was like, and seemed duly impressed after his grandfather interjected that it’s “the sweetest thing you’ve ever tasted.”
The conversation turned to other topics, but I eventually steered it back ’round toward Durian, urging him that while he was in Asia, he had better taste it fresh, from the source. Seeming intrigued, he waxed, “Well, if it’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever tasted…”
“I wouldn’t call it that, exactly,” I responded. When he asked what it does take like, then, I took a long while thinking it over before finally conceding that I didn’t have the words to describe. “But when you eat Penang Durian in June and July,” I offered, “it will make you question your very existence.”
At least, that had been my experience.
This year’s been different, however. The Durian this year have been very good, often very great. I’ve been planted here in George Town for a solid month not because it’s a cultural Mecca (though it is indeed that), but rather because of the Durian. And though they seem to be getting better and better the closer we get to season’s end, I had not, this year, eaten a truly transcendent one – had not been forced to attempt to reconcile my place in the Universe and Everything.
Until to-day. When first I spied it at the Morning Market, I knew it was going to be a good one; and for this reason saved it ’til the very end of the day’s Durian feastage. But then, when I cracked it open, it looked completely inedible. No wrinkles at all, and looked dry as a bone and hard as a rock. Tempted to chuck it straight away, I finally went ahead and grabbed a piece (I’d already paid for it, after all) — becoming slightly encouraged by its heft and its softness – and took a first taste…
But although I’ve never been hit by a Mack truck before now — nor even a Peterbilt — that’s what eating this Durian was like (in a good way). Transcendence. A mind-ripping/soul-defining explosion of flavour.
That-there Durian is the very reason why Penang rules the Durian roost. It’s why Penang’s Durian vendors can charge ridiculous sums of money, and nobody bats an eye (though this particular specimen itself weighed in at a mere three dollars and change). It’s why throngs of far-flung Durianistas flock here every Summer like moths to the flame.
Upon finishing off one of those Penang Durian, the supplicant for tens of minutes after is capable only of wandering around in a daze, questioning the very meaning of it all. And barely that, in fact: even the placing of one foot before the other, in this state, is a far from trivial matter. Even now, many hours later, though I’ve regained control of my basic locomotor faculties, I’m still not really able to think straight. (And in case you suppose that I’m employing metaphor, or being melodramatic: I assure you, ’tis not the case.)
What just happened? God damned if I know. But that, that right there, was some crazy Durianical shit went down. Here in Penang, we’ve no need of Heroin, not even of rollery-coasters. We’ve got Durian.
There are a few weeks still to go for this season. Why not get your dimpled ass over here and taste what I’m a-talking about? If your supervisor tries to give you any flack, just say to them: “Beeyatch, I’m going to Penang and eat some frickin’ Durian!”
They’ll understand. Oh, yes, they shall understand.
This is not that Durian. But it’s one that came pretty close, from earlier this week. We can’t (for fuck’s sake) have a whole entire posting concerning the Almighty Durian (praise be upon) without including any pictures…can we?