Death by durian and more red herrings
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a strange dish from Sweden known as surstromming, a fermented herring which, apparently, smells so awful that a number of airlines have banned it.
Apparently, surstromming is not the only food with this distinction. There is a large thorny Asian fruit called the durian which, when fully ripe can weigh up to five kilos and whose smell, likened to sewage, stale vomit and skunk spray can be detected several blocks away. The taste is said to be sweet, creamy and rich, like custard or cream cheese (the novelist Anthony Burgess famously compared the experience of eating the fruit to that of eating vanilla custard in a latrine) and it is a favourite fruit of many Southeast Asians who will often risk life and limb to pick up the enormous fallen pods under the durian trees (advice to durian collectors- wear a hardhat).
Despite being the locals’ favourite fruit, most hotels in Singapore have banned durian as has Singapore’s mass transit system. Three years ago a flight out of Brisbane was delayed for four hours while security checked the luggage hold.  The offending smell emanated from a durian fruit, which had been coated with a white powder (which thankfully turned out to be carpet deodoriser and not anthrax). The head of Virgin Blue, the Virgin subsidiary that was operating the flight added that the issue was about more than just security, saying, “No one wants to fly in a plane that smells like that”. Perhaps Virgin should have followed Singapore Airlines’ lead. The latter will confiscate any durian brought aboard by passengers.
There is another evil-smelling fruit that I have read about, called the noni fruit, found in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific. Seen as a hippy-dippy cure-all by new age, middle aged, health food fad Americans (most of whom apparently live in California) the fruit itself is unpalatable to most, and its smell has been compared to both vomit and cheese. Noni fruit said to relieve fever, constipation and also nausea, which is helpful because it more often than not it tends to invoke this.
I haven’t seen noni or durian for sale in Cyprus (thankfully) but I suppose it is only a matter of time. And maybe durian really is delicious once you get past the smell. But to me that’s like saying that racing a Formula One car is easy once you get to grips with the driving and handling bit and that jumping from a cliff top into the sea is perfectly safe once you get past all the rocks.


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