What they'll serve at the all-you-can-eat buffet in Hell

For years, my bride and her parents have been telling me about durian, a fruit that has a unique, and according to my bride and her mother, an overpowering stench. Her dad, on the other hand, has always been kind of "it's not so bad...," which, given the visceral reaction of the other two, is kind of surprising. I figured it must be one of those love it/hate it kind of things. But I couldn't figure out just from the stories which side of the fence I'd be on. After all, my Bride likes to eat things like chickens' feet, and anything with tamarind in it, so who knew if she could be trusted?

Last weekend, on our monthly run to Manchester's China town, I was in one of the Chinese grocers for an unsupervised moment, and found a durian calling to me from a dark corner.

I took it to the counter and found, as the lady rang me up, that the price on the sticker (four pounds sterling or so) was per pound... so I ended up paying about $30 to take this thing home with me. My bride rolled her eyes, and insisted that I park the durian outside, on the front step, to prevent the stench from pervading the house. They sell them partially frozen, so the smell is kept down. But you can see from the signs posted in Asian airports and bus stations that it is seriously not something to be trifled with.The Critter, however, was totally with me, and promised that she wanted to try this strange looking thing as well.

After a couple of days of half-forgetting the spiky monstrosity on my doorstep, I finally cut it open and took a peek inside. The flesh is a kind of creamy, mild yellow, with a few golf-ball sized seeds throughout. And though it had never developed too much of a pervading odor while it was outside, it definitely released a stronger smell once it was cut open.

I poked at it tentatively with a finger, and the smell grew decidedly stronger. Scooping out a bit of the flesh with my fingers, I kind of sniffed it a bit, and let the Critter smell it. It was strong, and pungent, but hard to describe. It wasn't aggressively bad, but it wasn't something I'd be using in my dresser drawers to freshen up my linens. The texture felt kind of like a soft, over-ripe mango. And hey, I like mangoes. So I gave it a try.

It tasted like a combination of wet fermenting onions and the damp gym sock I forgot in the bag for two months. With perhaps a little Pure Evil thrown in, just for spice. I spit it out and spent the next five minutes scraping my tongue with anything I could find that would get the taste out of my mouth. Like gravel from the driveway.

The Critter, God love her, saw my reaction (and her mother doubled over in laughter on the ground at the look on my face) and still tried a piece herself. She ran screaming from the house and we haven't seen her since.

If you see her, please have her call home.

That damned fruit cost the best part of $30, and I hate to see it go to waste.