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Friday, April 20, 2007

Adventures in Food with Ari and Jonah

posted by on April 20 at 20:40 PM

The day: Friday

The mission: Disrupt the workplace as much as possible

Weapon of choice:
durian.jpg

Durian, the smelly, oft-maligned member of the Malvaceae family, made a brief appearance on Anthony Bourdain’s TV show A Cook’s Tour many years ago, where I vaguely recalled him describing the “king of fruits” as “cheesy.”

Bourdain’s description intrigued me and I began researching the strange fruit. When I found food and travel writer Richard Sterling’s description of durian as being something like

“pig-shit, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock,”
I knew I had to have one.


Yesterday, Ari and I concocted a super-double-secret plan to bring a durian into the office to see what would happen. A new Asian supermarket recently opened not far from my house, in the old Larry’s Market location, so I dropped by yesterday and picked up the heaviest, spikiest durian I could find. I left it in my car overnight only to return this morning to discover that my car, already a museum of strange sensory sensations, had taken on a bizarre “funky melon” smell. After the drive to work, I placed the bagged fruit on the edge of my desk. The countdown to stinky-town had begun.

11:45 - Ari Spool arrives in style, laying out a copy of another local “newspaper” on a desk in the middle of the offices, while I get down to business with a serrated knife. Our antics are immediately halted when Erica Barnett scolds us. Dan Savage sends us to another floor of the building.

Ari and I wander upstairs carrying a large ugly fruit, a 10-inch serrated knife and a camera. No one even notices. We plop everything down a large conference room table and get to cuttin’.

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A foul, rotten smell begins to fill the room. Neither Ari nor I want to be the first to see if it tastes like it smells. So we get Nipper.

"It smells like fucking Pepto Bismol," he yells through a scrunched-up face. "I am not gonna eat that!" 2 seconds later: "Hang on, let me get a fork."

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As the smell of decaying meat and sulfur waft through the office, people keep coming by to see what all the stink is about. Ari and I convince many of them to try a bite of the slimy, artichoke-heart-looking pods from the durian.

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"it IS cheesy," declares Ari.

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One Stranger employee, who's allergic to tropical fruit, rubs a piece of durian on her skin to see if she'll have a reaction. I remind her that she is going to smell like decaying turds for the rest of the afternoon. "I smell like gasoline most days anyway," she counters.

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Other staff reactions:
"If garlic and mango got together and had a lovechild, it would taste like this."
"It's vile."
"Now we need, like, an air freshener."
"It has an...interesting flavor...I don't think I have an acquired taste for it."
"Everything about this looks unsanitary"

The shining star of the afternoon though, was Jonathan Zwickel, perhaps confusing opium dens with durian parties, when he recounted his colorful past with the olfactory-offending fruit. "It's somewhat narcotic. I was at a durian party in San Francisco," where he remembers lying around "spooning durian into each other's mouths. It was totally sensual."

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The durian tasted as bad as it smelled and a large mass of mushy, unloved leftovers sat on the conference room table before Ari and I said our goodbyes and gave it a proper burial in the Dumpster.

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Goodbye slimy, smelly, nasty durian fruit. We will miss you.

Now, where the hell can I find one of these durian parties?


So Slog readers, what foul/delicious/bizarre culinary misadventures would you like to see next week?

RSS icon Comments

1

How about haggis? Maybe that's too obvious but I bet it would be entertaining too.

BTW, I once gave ECB cookies when she was here in Denver and never heard if she liked them. Bug her about that, would you?

Posted by Matt from Denver | April 20, 2007 8:55 PM
2

The problem with haggis is that it actually tastes good. Stupid sheep stomachs.

Posted by Postureduck | April 20, 2007 9:03 PM
3

Unless you can find some canned haggis, which is a total taste and texture abomination.

Posted by Postureduck | April 20, 2007 9:07 PM
4

Surstromming, but I doubt you can even find it in the US.

Posted by oscar | April 20, 2007 9:14 PM
5

pigs's feet: canned vs. fresh.

Posted by ariel | April 20, 2007 9:29 PM
6

That's a cute post, but you should really be honest and credit the nytimes.

Posted by johnnie | April 20, 2007 10:49 PM
7

See if you can get your hands on some kymyz.

Posted by John | April 20, 2007 11:21 PM
8

Lutefisk. Huitlacoche. Rocky Mountain oysters.

Posted by tsm | April 20, 2007 11:39 PM
9

turducken! (turkey stuffed with a duck, stuffed with a chicken)

Posted by sari | April 20, 2007 11:56 PM
10

If you get durian perfectly ripe, it's awesome stuff. Like a pineapple custard.

If you get it overripe? Dear gods. And don't get me started on artificial durian flavour.

But it really is worth the time to try and find a good one. I'd still suggest eating it outside, some people just can't get the subtleties of the smell. ;)

Posted by wench | April 21, 2007 12:00 AM
11

Tamarind Tree in the Intl. District has Durian ice cream on their menu. Has a sort of creamy, onion-y flavor; doesn't seem bad at first, but then the after taste catches up with you. It smells like vanilla ice-cream that's been stored too close to something that's gone off.

Posted by musely | April 21, 2007 12:04 AM
12

lobster stuffed with tacos

Posted by dirge | April 21, 2007 12:24 AM
13

vegemite on lutefisk

Posted by vooodooo84 | April 21, 2007 1:33 AM
14

Ate deez nuts accidentally in Spain some years ago. Knew what it was instantly. Spat it into a napkin and gagged for a little while. Truly, unforgettably gross. I dare you.

Posted by Grant Cogswell | April 21, 2007 2:29 AM
15

Cherimoya! It is described as being a blend of pineapple and vanilla flavors. It is a green triangular shaped fruit with scales on the outside that I find to be incredibly noxious tasting despite the fanciful descriptions and rave reviews I've heard from enthusiasts.

Posted by z girl | April 21, 2007 2:44 AM
16

@6 what's with the NYT?

@everyone else: I will not be eating pickled fish products. Period. And if the cookery only involves opening a can...meh.
I'm looking for a more involved project. I was thinking maybe deep fried coke. Or pork stuffed pork.

Taco Stuffed lobsters would be a close second but I just don't think I can afford tacos on my salary.

Posted by jonah s | April 21, 2007 3:00 AM
17

Try Whole Stuffed Camel

A detailed description exists in Bohumil Hrabal's book "I served the King of England," so for the best account, read that book, but here is a summary from memory:

- Boil several hundred eggs.
- Stuff twenty turkeys with seasoned stuffing.
- Baked them.
- Stuff two antelopes with baked turkeys.
- Fill extra space in antelopes with boiled eggs.
- Bake the antelopes.
- Stuff camel with antelopes.
- Insert fish in the camelís belly, and again use boiled eggs to fill the extra space.
- Season strongly.
- Grill the camel on charcoal in large courtyard.

Slice cross-sections with a sharp knife.

Serves 300

---
I can't attest to it as I am a vegetarian, but if you do it, please take photos.

Posted by Jude Fawley | April 21, 2007 6:38 AM
18

i can report that even durian cake tastes like durian. all that sugar and butter can't even help it.
and, umm... haggis is quite good. don't hate on the haggis. and, while i'm at it, pig's feet [if done right] is among some of the tastiest meat you can eat.
now vegimite and marmite. yyyeeewwww... that is an acquired taste i will most likely never acquire.

Posted by stacy | April 21, 2007 8:09 AM
19

I made stuffed camel once. It's not that hard once you get over the hump.

Posted by chris | April 21, 2007 8:11 AM
20

I think you guys should start an Iron Chef-type competition at the Stranger, getting the grossest theme ingredient possible and having to turn it into something tasty. It would definitely be a billion times better than watching Bobby "I-can-only-cook-with-corn-and-chipotle" Flay and Kat "I-can't-cook-at-all" Cora on the current american version.

Posted by Ann | April 21, 2007 8:45 AM
21

awwe, look at what little jonah and ari did. they appropriated darling463's voice of dissent and are smelling their armpits over it. yes, thank you for doing the whole verbose (keep the verbal vomit coming) durian frommage reportazhe.

They're just like the media weasles who enjoy coopting inspiration and jacking off into their gym-sock worldly incite, aren't they?

Okie dokey, Airy-head and Jonad, now it's time for to bend over and make lil pooh pooh for the people. There you go, squeeze!!! grunt!! Oops! here it cums.

Mmmm, doesn't that look good, with a hint of garlic (did you swheeties have corn for dinner?), ok let's get you cleaned up with the New York Times. There, a wipe here, a wipe there, See? The NYT is really full of shit now.

Alright, you've done well, you very hungry experimentalists. We've got a great snack for you. It's called 'Bloody Stool in Newsprint.'
Just pick at it like we do at Pommes Frites next to Neumos.

Last night, Slender means played an alright show, but the fries while waiting in line were the highlight. In fact, darling463 brought along her tape-echo machine and blared her polyrhythmic sample of "How was it?"

Hallucinatory drones of the three words layered in cacaphony, the rpm's chosen by Cagian chance. Very cool, and the concert goers dug it.

How waSiT Wow washo it OW wa I t How Ewa i is Wa sdi T HOW s a wwwwwit waHoaw w as It
-- totally cool, possibly triumphing the end of XTC's 'Complicated Game"

Yes, the game, You, SPOOL and ASSt, ARE THE loozers

Posted by Congrats | April 21, 2007 9:02 AM
22

@21 - 9:02 AM is either way too early to be that drunk, or way too late to still be that drunk.

Posted by tsm | April 21, 2007 9:08 AM
23

Try making coke from kola nuts.
Or a main course out of dandelion weeds from your lawn.

Posted by John | April 21, 2007 9:30 AM
24

@ 17, 20, 23-

Great ideas! I probably can't get ahold of a whole camel for cheap but stuffing something sounds like fun.
I'll have to see if I have any takers for an iron chef competition.

I miss the William Shatner Iron Chef.

Posted by jonah s | April 21, 2007 9:45 AM
25

you miss a lot things, jonah suckdog
this is survival of the fittest
and you're weak

Posted by Congrats | April 21, 2007 9:55 AM
26

Well, I've had bear and musk ox (in Canada), dog (in Vietnam), guinea pig (in Peru), and cobra (in Indonesia), but none of them are particularly freakish IMO (but I grew up on haggis). So, may I suggest my trifecta of foreign freakout food:

Hakarl, Kumis, Shirako

I tried Hakarl in Iceland, Kumis in Kyrgyzstan, and Shirako in Japan. The only one I would willingly eat again is shirako, though I'd choke down another swig of kumis if I was in a ger and it would be impolite to turn it down (all I can say is: you can taste the horse). I'd starve before I went near hakarl again, though if it was close to the end I might use it to put myself out of my misery.

Of the three, the only one I am certain is available in Seattle is shirako. When it's in season they serve it as a special at Maneki, and I believe Uwajimaya sometimes has it (if not, you'd have to buy it from a specialty seafood wholesaler). But you'll have to wait: the season is late winter (shirako: it's the taste of the holiday season!)

Posted by Joero | April 21, 2007 10:25 AM
27

And Dan Savage has to dress like chairman Kaga.

Posted by Ann | April 21, 2007 10:26 AM
28

Great story!!

Posted by StrangerDanger | April 21, 2007 10:47 AM
29

Malay Satay Hut has a durian milkshake-like dessert that is out of this world. It's like eating corpses, but it's incredibly compelling. Delicious and strange. I think it's cold because that damps the extreme flavor a little. Durian is an almost pornographic taste.

Lutefisk!

Posted by Fnarf | April 21, 2007 11:07 AM
30

My ultimate goal is to find a place that serves or sells endangered species. I've heard about a place but haven't been able to track it down. Anybody know where I can get some panda loin?

Posted by Jonah S | April 21, 2007 11:49 AM
31

It's also pretty disruptive to sit next to someone and eat a bunch of fucking corn-nuts. While mouth-breathing.

Posted by Ariel | April 21, 2007 12:08 PM
32

At30 We know, and we're not tellin, you asshole, um, meant you're ultimate hole.

Posted by darling463 | April 21, 2007 12:28 PM
33

Natt?!!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natto

nothing like a sticky, stinky bowl of FERMENTED SOYBEAN!
the smell is similar to dirty socks, and i have no idea what it tastes like, because i refuse to eat it. like any other disgusting, smelly food, some people love it.
any asian food market will carry it.

Posted by greg | April 21, 2007 12:59 PM
34

PEONDAEGI! Delicious boiled and canned or dried silkworm larva. It's very popular in South Korea and can be found in 7-11's and such there. Here are some good pictures of the canned kind but I think the dried kind is more popular. It should be available at any Korean grocery store.

Also, FYI, it's spelled a lot of different ways -- peondaegi, bondegi, beondaegi. It's pronounced "bone-day-gee" (hard "g", not "jee").

Posted by jamier | April 21, 2007 2:05 PM
35

On a continuing Asian theme, how about some sea cucumber? It's a delicacy in China and I think elsewhere in east Asia, and has the consistency of a nice piece of grey blubber.

After all, nothing beats trying to eat something when you're not sure if it's a plant or an animal. Not to mention that sea cucumbers vomit up their internal organs to scare away predators (and then regrow them) and breathe through their anuses. How can you not want to chow down on that?

Posted by Megan | April 21, 2007 2:48 PM
36

The cookies were delicious! We ate a ton of them that night and gave the few that were left away to a bunch of very grateful (and friendly) drinkers.

Posted by ECB | April 21, 2007 4:28 PM
37

How about Gross Unitarian Cake?

http://www.fewmets.net/articles/friscokid/colacake.html

I believe the proper title is "cocoa-cola cake," but the thing involves Coke and *buttermilk*. I've never dared to make it myself.

Posted by Shannon | April 21, 2007 7:28 PM
38

the only thing that could possibly battle durian in texture, flavor and smell is japanese natto, as featured in this leatherman's pervy cooking show for children:

Posted by d | April 21, 2007 7:32 PM
39
Posted by d | April 21, 2007 7:34 PM
40

i have a feeling that durian you busted into wasn't ripe and ready and at its best (the pods should be, like, pornographically creamy and soft and oozy). this probably would not have changed your take on it, though--which is too bad, as eating durian is absolutely one of the most awesome, bizarre, full body heat-trance-inducing experiences. the smell is kind of repulsive, sure, but it's also sort of indescribable and haunting...which is exactly what keeps you wanting more. yeow!

Posted by angela garbes | April 21, 2007 8:43 PM
41

To be fair to the durian, I'm not a fan of ANY kind of melon. All the things I've read about durian describe it as "melony." It may, at this point, be unfair to blame the durian entirely for its shortcomings.

Posted by Jonah S | April 21, 2007 9:51 PM
42

@15 - Really? That's one of my favorite fruits ever! Then again, I can eat durian, so maybe there's some kind of common element there.

@38 - Ooh! Thank you! I'd totally forgotten about Hard Gay!

I vote for natto, too.

For bonus points, go find some asafoetida. It's absolutely horrifying raw, but when you cook it in a dish, it adds a really nice depth to Indian dishes - sort of the way that fish sauce finishes off Thai and Vietnamese food. Do not, under any circumstances, leave any of it in a car. Or your house. Or the office. When it's fresh, it smells like an onion that got forgotten in the back of a cupboard and turned to mush over the course of several months. And that's putting it mildly.

Posted by wench | April 21, 2007 10:15 PM
43

Tonight I had a Martini and a burrito. Good enough for me, I was going to be exotic and eat the aluminum foil wrap, but I think Jonah will one up me by eating his own shit.

Posted by darling463 | April 22, 2007 12:54 AM
44

...wow, Jonah. I think darling463 might have a bit of a crush on you... you seem to be all he can talk about!

Great post Jonah and Ari... as always!!

Posted by L. | April 22, 2007 11:58 AM
45

Your durian experience is over. In my office, we have a devoted raw foodist who devotes himself to daily durian representation.

I always think "methane" when I smell it.

When he can't get it fresh (it's easy to drop over $50 on fresh durian, apparently) he gets some...canned? and whips it up in a jar, which he walks around eating and subjecting us to.

If there's ever a gas leak in our office, no one will catch on.

Posted by Saundra | April 22, 2007 5:19 PM
46

my vote for the next one goest to dried Cuttlefish. you can find it in most asian markets.

Posted by kevin jones | April 23, 2007 6:53 AM

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