Just do it! Yes, I know it’s the Nike strapline but it dawned on me that its success had come from the fact that it was true! There are things which we take far too look to make a decision on and yes, I know about all of those sayings including the one that says that nothing happens before its time. I had not tasted Durian in Malaysia, even though 24 months had already gone by since I first moved to live and work in South East Asia. With the pungent smell that overpowered everything around it, that for me had a big turn off. Its offense was so indignant, that it was banned in hotels and many condominiums. That had been enough for me to refuse every invitation to ‘Durian eating sessions’. I had given into my fear of this strange fruit which others seemed to be happily enjoying with no lasting consequences or illness. You know that I had checked!!!
Walking through Penang after a day of consulting in schools, it was easy to feel motivated around Azinah though. Her loving and sweet personality had us chatting and laughing at the ease and delights of this part of Malaysia. When she asked
‘Would you like to join me for Durian ?’ in that happy jovial Azinah way, my natural reply of ‘why not’ made total sense. I let my mood dictate my openness to this adventure for her energy was always so pure and kind.
‘Have you had it before ?’, she asked as we entered the store
‘I haven’t’, I admitted, a little embarrassed.
This store we entered sold nothing but Durian. The aesthetics were not important here. The café style tables and chairs were plastic and very basic. The Durian fruit and Durian products were scattered on the shelves but it was safe to say that all overheads had been kept to a minimum. It was not so much a store as an open space with some Durians on a rack, a sink where you could wash your hands and table and chairs.
The young man at the door looked as if he’d been on shift all day. He was not kind to my many questions about why the Durian came in different shades of yellow or why it was so expensive (equivalent to 20 British pounds) or what the health benefits were. Whilst Azinah giggled at the blatant curiosity of this expat, he simply stopped answering for he was not about to be my Wikipedia for the day. Didn’t he understand that I still thrived on human interaction and to be honest, I thought his answers would be more authentic than Wikipedias. We opted for what was the king durian and as there was no queen durian. Having made out purchase, we sat down ready!
I looked over at the table of eight men and women who ranged from dark to light shades. They were also sharing the experience of durian eating. I could hear Asian and European accents. The fear on my face must have been evident.
Is it your first time? , one of the men asked
It is!!! Answered I, the virgin Durian eater
You’ll be alright. It really isn’t that bad!!!!. He reassured me as he returned to his group.
I smiled and wondered why there were no beautiful pictures or some degree of distraction for us over emotional and sensitive types! As I sat in front of Azinah, I asked her to record this coming of age experience in Malaysia for it was time!
The bright sunshine, Azinah’s smile and the laughter from the other table, all helped to diffuse the pungent smell. The first taste was mild. Incredibly mild compared to the smell. I was waiting for the taste to knock me down or to at least throw me from my seat and a little way from the table. It didn’t do any of that. The texture reminded me of freshly made butter. Incredibly rich and creamy. The fruit slid from the seed into my mouth with so much ease. The richness of the texture made eating large amounts impossible. It had to be taken a small mouthful at a time and I closed my eyes and swallowed the rich, slightly pungent tasting fruit. It was however not offensive. I had tasted grapefruits in the UK which had me twisting, and resisting the next segment. In this case, the smell soon disappeared and the specialness of the fruit lingered. I ate another piece and found that I liked this strange fruit. I liked that it was warm and comforting and strangely familiar.
My husband hates it so I have to eat it outside, Azinah explained. She smiled all the time, what seemed to be a genuine and love filled smile. I wondered if there were things her husband ate or did which she didn’t like. Did she have space to also express or to object? So many of the women I had met here, were warriors. just like other women. I had stopped letting the smile and hijab fool me in any way.
One of the men from the other table joined us. He had a German accent. He had come to see if I had survived the ordeal for he had been watching me.
How was it? my new friend enquired
It was fine, I smiled still eating small pieces. Have you finished yours?
No, I didn’t take any today. I’ve had it before…my friends wanted to come.
Ahh. So you just accompanied them?, I asked
Yes. I don’t like it that much anyhow. He admitted
I understand, I said, eating the last of my own supply. It had begun to grow on me
He sat with us for a few minutes and then wished us a good evening as he returned to his group. They were still laughing and discussing the experience.
Azinah and I had planned to take some back but our plates were empty and we remembered that it was banned in the hotel. Having had such a great afternoon, I wondered what had all the fuss really been about anyway. I shall certainly eat Durian again!
The thoughts in this blog are mine. My opinions, uncensored. Please don’t take it personally.