Richard Sterling wrote that durian smells like “pig-shit, turpentine, and onions, garnished with a gym sock.” Others who share his opinion have added blue cheese, rotting meat, public toilets, and dog farts to the list of interesting odorific comparisons. I actually quite like
the odor of durian. To me it smells like… durian, which equals vanilla delicious. But I can’t stand the
smell of the Balinese white mango, also called the Wani in Balinese or the Binjai in Malay. The slightest whiff of
it activates my gag reflex.
It’s latin name is Mangifera caesia. The smell is pungently putrid, like rotting exotic
perfume. To be fair, I haven’t
yet tasted this fruit as the odor is so repulsive. Rob says it tastes quite
nice, like creamy strawberries and pineapple. He thinks I’m imagining the stench. I backed up my repulsion with this article on the mangifera caesia, which mentions the “foetid rank smell” and notes that it is “rather offensive”. Why wani isn’t banned from hotels and public transit is beyond me.
right now, because they are everywhere! Today, while out hunting durian, we
came across a man up in a tree, knocking down wanis with a long pole. He gave Rob three large
fruits, which will have to ripen outside our hotel room. There’s a no-wani
Apparently its all up to our genes. Our smell receptors or lack of them which is apparently genetic in origin. A good percentage of lucky Asians must have less of the ones that pick up that rotten sulphuric smell and so find durian completely inoffensive even appetising. The same goes for coriander, a few unlucky people just cannot tolerate it as to them it tastes and smells absolutely disgusting but to the majority it tastes like a delicious earthy herb.
I cannot tolerate the smell of Durian to me it smells like a typical male WC in the tropics with a whack of rotten flesh thrown in. We had a wild pig die in our forest nearby in summer and the smell is something I will never forget. Most cheeses on the other hand bar one or two extremely repulsive ammoniac smelling ones are magic to my nose. Just as you don’t find durian repulsive but wani you do.
It’s a strange conundrum. Im wondering how people manage to avoid bad food if they can’t smell it, you would think we were all genetically wired for this but obviously this is not a given. Every time I open a jar of anything the first thing I do is take a whiff. It’s a reflex, I don’t think about it. Same with any new food Im about to taste or fruit Im choosing etc. How could I know it was off if I couldn’t smell that it was?
Fermented tofu is another durian like food, it has me crossing the road in a hurry to avoid it, others rushing across to get some finding the smell irresistible. This is all quite comical as it so clearly shows our noses are just not all behaving the same.
I have no idea the reason why this should be so. However Im eager to try some of the newer odour free durians!
Could be the tropics you need a nose that is far more sensitive to the huge range of smells in that humidity that some of us just dont have so we bunch or group more of those smells together under bad where as locals and some others can more easily make out the finer nuances between good and rotten…..who knows. One thing is for sure elephants find the smell irresistible as well thus providing the tree with a good seed dispersal system. Wonder if the African elephant would find that not the case! LOL