A foul-smelling package forced the evacuation of a building and sent six individuals to hospital in Germany recently.
Police were alerted to a suspicious odour coming from one of the packages in a post office in Bavaria, which led to the evacuation of some 60 people in the building. An elite team was then sent in to inspect the package.
Such was the paranoia that CNN reported that six ambulances, five first responder cars, and two emergency vehicles were deployed to the scene.
Terrorism was suspected.
The terrorists were later identified to be three durians from Thailand. Even so, Larry, Curly and Moe, sent six people to hospital for nausea.
OK, it’s bad. But is it that bad?
The writer Anthony Burgess – who taught English at the Malay College, Kuala Kangsar in the 1950s – in his The Malayan Trilogy compared eating a durian to “having sweet raspberry blancmange in a lavatory”.
And he meant “Malayan lavatory in the 1950s” too.
Privately, he told friends that it was like “rotten, mushy onions”.
The travel writer Chitra Divakumari once described a morning thus “Each new day,” she observed, “has a colour, a smell.”
Unfortunately, what wafted to the nostrils of the good citizenry of Bavaria that day were malodorous sulphur compounds associated with skunk spray, rotten eggs and dirty socks.
Actually, the durian is mild compared to some Western foods that are off the smell-scale, as it were.
Surstromming, a Swedish delicacy, is herring that’s fermented in barrels for six months and then canned for a year. The fermentation is so extreme that the cans actually bulge from the pressure.
When opened its contents can stun canaries a mile away.
Or Vieux-Boulogna cheese from the district of that name in France which has the dubious distinction of being the “smelliest” cheese in the world.
It is a great delicacy in France though.
Kiviak is probably the most revolting though. It’s a Greenland delicacy and is made by wrapping whole small sea birds, feathers and all, in sealskin and burying it for several months to decompose. When it is dug up, the insides are decayed to the point of near-liquification and are reportedly sucked out.
As Conrad might observe, the horror of it!
The humble durian is the only food that isn’t fermented yet smells that way. It’s not so humble actually. Its prices have sky-rocketed, no thanks to the Chinese who seem bent on littering durian rind on the Road on which the Belt is located.
It has become a test of sorts for Western chefs hitherto given to assuming that blue cheese had been the only skunk stunner.
Even the great Bobby Flay broke down and ran off screaming into the night when confronted by durians.
When told that some Malaysians considered it the King of Fruits, he began laughing hysterically and couldn’t cook for a week.
But the durian could have new uses. Bottled and concentrated, its essence is said to have been found to strip bark from trees.
Alas, scientists are yet to figure out how that might conceivably be useful.