I spend an hour or so in meetings every morning at work. These are fast-paced, intense, working meetings where a lot gets done. It was an unexpected diversion from the usual routine when one of the doctors walked in and set down a little glass bowl filled with purple glop, and a handful of plastic spoons. All eyes turned to the mystery bowl. He had our undivided attention as he introduced his offering, a Filipino dessert called ube halaya.
By this time, several spoons were aimed at the dish. The contents were a surprisingly firm paste, with a texture similar to frozen yogurt, but it wasn’t cold.
It was good! It had a smooth, custardy texture, and a surprisingly rich, creamy taste—just a little sweet, but not cloyingly so. Ube halaya would make a comforting end to a spicy dinner.
And ube halaya wasn’t the end of the culinary adventures for the day. I found out later that the same doctor had shared some durian fruit the day before, and he had some left over and kindly let me taste it.
I have long been curious about durian, as people seem to have such strong reactions to it. “Horrible! The smell is absolutely unbearable!” one of my coworkers said in no uncertain terms. This, of course, just dialed up my curiosity even more.
I took a good whiff of the container of frozen durian fruit. My first reaction was that it smelled like urine–in a pungent, back alley/under the bridge sort of way. And I’m guessing the smell of the fruit was considerably reduced by being frozen. But when I popped some of the smooth, pale yellow fruit into my mouth, I was a little confused, but not horrified. The flavor was complex, and changed as I chewed. The closest I can come to a description is pureed raw green beans with some avocado and banana stirred in. I didn’t love it exactly, but I could see how one might acquire a taste for it. I would eat it again.
What fun, when an otherwise uneventful workday includes a taste of two brand new foods—one that I had never heard of before, and one that did not live up to the reputation that preceded it.
I love trying new foods. And I love what an endlessly fascinating world we live in, with an abundant variety of new tastes and experiences and sights and sounds just waiting for us to reach for them.