Chow Adventures in Food with Ari and Jonah
posted by April 20 at 20:40 PMon
The day: Friday
The mission: Disrupt the workplace as much as possible
Weapon of choice:
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’.
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."
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.
"it IS cheesy," declares Ari.
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.
Other staff reactions:
"If garlic and mango got together and had a lovechild, it would taste like this."
"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."
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.
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?