Thursday, February 4, 2010

What Foods Do You Love/Hate? Part II

A few days ago, I started our getting-to-know-you game by asking you to tell me what food you dream of when you think of home.  Your answers were so very delicious, and I'm very eager for you to take me home and feed me.

Seriously, I'm still waiting for you to come get me.

In the interim, let's discuss the flip side of that question: What food repulses you, turns you off, makes you cringe at its mere sight or smell?

Image source: Wikipedia

For me, the answer is jackfruit.

If you haven't experienced the jackfruit, consider yourself lucky.  It looks like a durian on the outside -- greenish yellow and very prickly. (It's my belief that any fruit that has its own semi-lethal defense system should probably be left alone.)  When you purchase it from a fruit stand in Asia, the grocer will slip on a pair of heavy gloves, crack the prickly shell open with a hammer or a machete, and remove the edible parts for you.  Those bits are each about the size of a madeleine and have a starchy and fibrous texture.

Ok, it seems only mildly offensive so far, right?

Wrong.  I haven't gotten to the smell.  The jackfruit smells absolutely putrid: Imagine a New York city alleyway on the hottest, muggiest day of the year.  Overlay on top of that middle notes of rancid trash and sweaty, fungused feet.

Got that?

Now add to that top notes of ass.

That's what jackfruit smells like.  People think durian smells horrible, but jackfruit is about ten times worse.  Jackfruit smells like durian that hasn't showered for months.

The anthropology grad students I was working with suggested that food that really repulses you -- food that you're ashamed of, or feel a need to distance yourself from -- often is food that is also tied inextricably with your culture.  And I think in the case of jackfruit, that's right.

If I were less Americanized and more in tune with my native culture, I'd probably tolerate, even like, jackfruit, like my mom does. In fact, it's one of my mom's favorite foods; she grew up in Vietnam and lived in Singapore where jackfruits are as plentiful as apples.   It's a food that divides people into insiders and outsiders: if you're legit, you bond with others who also love a fruit that has the odor of rancid trash; if you've been living in the U.S. for too long and are used to fruit with the aroma of . . . well, fruit . . . then you're going to run away as soon as you get a whiff of this stuff.

Enough about jackfruit and its eau de schweaty balls.  What foods repulse you?


Brandi February 4, 2010 at 2:11 PM  

Curry! Which after reading what your friend said kind of makes sense... my asian grandma used to make it about once a month and I could not stand it- the smell, the taste- anything! :)

Creature Gorgeous February 5, 2010 at 1:08 AM  

Brandi: You have an Asian grandma?

Hot Cocoa: Though I eat most aaanything, jack fruit (and chicken, but for different reasons) has got to be up there with foods I don't love. Another is Ethiopian (injera) bread, mainly because the spongy, rubbery texture reminds of of flesh.

Mrs. Hot Cocoa February 5, 2010 at 1:15 AM  

Brandi: That's fascinating - curry is actually one of the Singaporean dishes I do love. Do you dislike all curries, or just certain types?

Phuong: OMG - I also dislike injera, because I think it reminds me of the rug pads (the sticky things you put under carpeting).

Brandi February 5, 2010 at 10:31 AM  

Creature: My grandma is 100% Japanese- born and raised there- I'm just a mere quarter. But I spent/ and still do so much time with her that I feel most connected to that part of my heritage

HC: I've never met one that I liked yet ;)

Justin February 5, 2010 at 1:48 PM  

hmm, looking at the photo makes me realize i've never seen the inside of a jack fruit... a little scary. anyway, i know these aren't weird or anything, but i just can't stand beets and string beans.

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