Accounting For Taste

In Singapore, the pasar melam – the roadside market – comes alive well after sunset. Tiny lights strung up on make-shift store fronts give the outdoor shopping scene a festive air. Lychees, mangosteens, rambutans and other tropical fruit are on display in the fruit stalls, but one formidable-looking fruit holds it its own against the competition. It is summer, the durian season, and in South East Asia durian is king.

Cradling the spiky fruit in her palms, a patron examines the probables at length while her family looks on. Once she picks the winner, the group withdraws into the darkness of the nearby alley. An assistant takes a machete to the durian and serves them the fruit’s innards. The family doesn’t take leftovers from this feast. Well, there is very little left, to be honest but, more importantly, “The King of Fruits” is not allowed on subways in Singapore. Does the durian have an image problem or what?

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