Yesterday I had durian for only the second or third time in my life – the first time being in 2003 or 2004 during a college spring break hanging out with my uncle in Toronto, Ontario. He’s the one who predicted I would become a raw vegan/ fruitarian long before I had even known much about that whole practice, though I had been a conventional vegan for four or five years by then, just emerging out of my teenage years at that time.
I’d been thinking about it for a while. Many weeks ago a friend of mine and myself had a little chow at Bonobos, the raw vegan hole in the wall on 23rd St and Madison Ave right in front of Madison Square Park. My friend sampled their durian “ice cream” and then I followed. Not being into “raw gourmet” much at all anymore, I nonetheless entertain daydreams of eating tropical fruits like durian and such all the time, and most days I realize those dreams by at least eating bushels of bananas and oranges each day and a daily avocado, and some papaya and/or mango at least a couple times a week. I eat many apples as well, grown mostly in Washington State on the opposite side of this continent. Greens I eat – “spring mixes” of various lettuces, chard, cabbage, etc., as well as celery – are often grown in Mexico or California; I eat raw okra too, imported sometimes from the US South, though more often from Asia or Afrika. I’m not a great locovore as you can surmise. But nothing much is growing in NJ or NY during these arctic dog days of winter. In any case, back to the story: I fantasize about, and eat, foods mostly “exotic” to where I live. (Hence my recent refrain – time for me to get very, very serious about resettling in Afrika and the tropics more broadly and as soon as I’m ready.)
The durian was bound to enter my realm at some point. Hearing raves about it from raw vegans and fruitarians on these here internets, and following initial exposure by my uncle some years back as a younger man, it was only a matter of time and commitment before I would start getting my hands on those things more often.
So after my “soft tissue conditions” class yesterday, I headed into Chinatown before making my way back home. I had some leads that good durian were to be scored on the corner of Grand St and Bowery. Not finding some there, I headed towards Mott St and walked down a bit, and sure enough the spiky punks were staring at me outside in the frigid air like gunslingers challenging me to a duel. Well, it wasn’t that dramatic.
Anyway I bought two of them, at $1.25 a pound (but each one is pretty damn heavy). I threw them in my army duffel bag and headed back towards Herald Square on the Canal St N, from where I entered Penn Station to get on home.
To make a long story short, the verdict is that durians are now among my favorite fruits. And these were just the imported-frozen-from-Thailand variety! How much more succulent, fleshy, filling, sweet, creamy, and all manner of nice could a fresh-from-the-grove one be? Seriously, these fruits are fiercely tasty – durian is no joke, son! Reading about durian culture and activity in Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia, I understand that there are varieties that are very expensive, that won’t or can’t even necessarily be exported far off to the wilds of Manhattan and environs, and that there are many flavors and so I’m left thinking this “durian mornthong” I picked up near the corner of Mott and Grand is just a starter brand.
I am quite pleased indeed to have initiated myself into this fruitarian culture of durian connoisseurs. These spiky guys aren’t that cheap. I don’t imagine I’ll be after them all the time. But so long as I’m here in NYC where I can have them from time to time, why not do just that?
Further down the line, when I’m setting up land for an agroforestry preserve in the Congo Basin or Niger Delta wet equatorial rainforest regions, I might plant some durian, jackfruit, and mangosteen trees, varieties from identical climes and soil conditions in Borneo, for my Afrikan fruitarian arboretum. Of course the many rare and advanced fruits with supreme phytonutrient content growing deep in places like the Ituri and Kivu rainforests, as yet only at best lightly explored with intent to find “superfoods”/ “superfruits” and medicines because of all the wars there, may occupy too much of my time to get around to bringing strong seedlings from Borneo to Central Afrika. South America and Southeast Asia surely aren’t the only places growing these “superfoods,” y’all self-styled raw-vegan superfood gurus! Where are the Afrikan varieties? If not y’all, at least I’ll be on the lookout for them. There are fruits I couldn’t even name right now that I had in Ghana, and many others yet to be explored and, well, popularized.
Anyway, the future is bright and tasty one way or the other. Fruitarianism in Afrika! Wet tropical regions grow the tastiest things for humans to munch on and grow big and strong with. Wet tropical regions are where I intend on spending most of my life once I’m done with my obligations and studies in Gotham.
A note about the scent of the durian: it is not a “bad” smell at all! I don’t know how folks came up with that one. It must surely have been sensory-deprived Europeans overwhelmed by the power of such a botanical powerhouse as the durian. It’s a sweet and succulent smell that tells you, once it hits you, that durian-related activities are occurring nearby. Yes, the scent is strong, getting through my army duffel bag from behind newspaper and plastic wrapping, and on a 20 degree day! But those who think it smells bad must be alarmist, sense-inhibited, orientalist tourists and passersby to the durian world. Because durian absolutely has a signature smell, and it is GOOD!
I’ll be eating some durian in my afternoon meals tomorrow and perhaps even Saturday if my stash lasts that long. Long live fruitarian adventurism!