The Worst Ever

13 Jan

We’re always talking about the best shrimp and grits in town, what the most divine dinner we had was, and where you must take out-of-towners. There’s a show called The Best Thing I Ever Ate that serves this precise purpose. I wait for the Charleston City Paper‘s bi-annual Dining supplement, a directory of great new restaurants and classics I still haven’t tried. It’s a supper of superlatives.

At the risk of grossing you out, I’d like to spend a few minutes talking about the worst thing ever. Maybe because Yelp doesn’t tell stories behind the food, or maybe because giving my opinion on what I think is “best” doesn’t have as much gravity. Here goes.

Looks like something you'd collect in Zelda

Looks like something you’d collect in Zelda

Durian.

This is a pinecone, a hand grenade, a hedgehog, a small child. None of these should be put in your mouth.

Well, I tried one, and I’m still trying to forget it. My review (so you’d call it) looks at odor, visual presentation, taste, and texture. These are the foundations to any review. The durian is terrifying in all of these aspects.

This “king of fruits” (and high in vitamins, whooppee) is available at many Chinatown fruit stands in downtown Manhattan. Most New York City hotels ban guests from bringing them in, not because of their look, but because of their smell. Their odor is sharper than the spikes on the side. It permeates clothes, the street, and probably could infiltrate brick walls.

I was in a group of fellow interns and an out-of-town visitor. We’d been in the city for some time, so we felt confident with the subway system and wanted to try something (anything) new. Including durians. After an early meal of dim sum, we went traipsing around the winding and trash-covered Chinatown streets, and then we spotted them. Durians were something we had all heard about and watched Tony Bourdain try, but like any food-obsessed person, taste would be the only thing that’d suffice.

The two guys we bought it from gave us a furtive glance when we asked for durians. I’m pretty sure I saw them wink as they pulled out one from a cooler and cut it up into a styrofoam tray. I regretted our decision even before they finished slicing. You know when you thaw chicken in the microwave? A “prepared” durian has that same yellowed, slimy look that made me anticipate salmonella. All the same, as pate proves, looks aren’t everything.

Slurp.

This tasted like papayas and garlic, mixed with rotting scallions (for a way out there sweetness). If that’s a weird combination, it’s because it is. The thawed chicken came back to me in the form of texture: a stringy and chewy sensation with occasional cold pockets. No amount of Listerine pocket packs or double espresso drinks could possibly eliminate this taste that permeated for the rest of the day, reminding me of my biggest food mistake since trying a basil latte.

Never again, I swore, never again will I consider it. In fact, writing this with chills scraping up and down my tastebuds. You’ve been warned.

What’s your grossest thing ever?

[Note: In all fairness, I’ve heard they make for good ice cream flavors. For an alternative opinion, The Smithsonian has some thoughts.]

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