JAKARTA - The durian fruit season is at hand, and the smell of rotten garbage hangs heavy on the air as Indonesians seek out their legendary sexual stimulant.
Myth says the football-size green durian has aphrodisiac and narcotic qualities which restore virility and drive people to new heights of passion.
But the fruit's powerful smell is also enough to drive a skunk away.
Eating the white, pulpy flesh leaves one slightly dizzy, and durian believers will walk miles to a roadside stand when word spreads that a freshly fallen batch are available. Storied Sumatran heroes fought tigers for durian.
When split open by machete, the fruit gives off a strong odor variously described as garbage or honey mixed with ripe cheese. "It's quite disgusting" said an English girl, Emma Gardner. "I don't know how you can eat it".
Even the most seasoned durian addict will consume the fruit out of doors because of the smell, which can linger for days. One Jakarta apartment block resident was told by his wife to eat the fruit on the balcony or not at all. But he left the partially-eaten remains by an air intake and the smell quickly cleared the building.
The durian season starts in late November and runs into the New Year. Inside the spiky, hard exterior of the durian the white, pulpy flesh surrounds small stone-like seeds. The consistency depends on age and size, with that of ripe fruit almost runny in texture.
Durian enthusiasts pride themselves on picking just the right fruit to eat from a road sellers' pile. The trick is to choose the ripe durian just before it turns bad, and the experienced handler taps the tough exterior with a knife blade. "You must hear exactly the right sound from the inside of the fruit". said Mucklis Ali, a durian addict.
According to Indonesian legend, Sumatran heroes would wait days for the durian to fall from its tree, the prime time to get the full benefit of its effects. But tigers also are partial to durian, the stories say, and that resulted in bloody battles between man and beast for the durian.
Ibu Ida, a middle aged woman, rejected durian as far too strong and cautioned against over-indulgence. "The vapors from it will cloud your brain", she said. Indonesians are convinced it has mysterious properties and treat it with care. People with high blood pressure are told to avoid it because of the stimulative effect - real or otherwise. But, whatever its effects, the urge to eat durian has conquered the aversion to its smell for hundreds of years in Indonesia. In Markets and along highways throughout the country durian are selling like hotcakes.
DATE: January 1984
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