Thursday, October 8, 2009

"The Worse It Smell..."

The Vietnamese are, to put it nicely, quite blunt.

The other day, when I was sitting on a hard, PlaySkool-sized bench, with both my arms resting on a table that was more like an ottoman, seated across from my Vietnamese student and his girl friend, she whispered something in his ear. Then they both laughed.

I asked him what she said.

"She say I'm too fat," said Mighty, smiling and finding her observation comical. "So I shouldn't be eating this fried ice cream!"

I reassured him, laughing as well, that he was just fine, and not too fat at all.

"Well, maybe in compare with you, I not so fat," he said proudly, as if this statement shouldn't be taken offensively in the least bit. "But in compare with her, I fat!"

My friend Zen, sitting to my right, and I both bursted out laughing.

"Oh, gee," Zen said. "That's nice!"

I really didn't get angry with my student, because what he said was harmless. It wasn't an insult; it was pure fact. This girl was the height and weight of a typical American fifth grader, and no doubt I was wayyy more woman than this kid could ever even dream of handling.

Shortly after, our fried ice cream arrived. Having learned upon my first trip to this dessert hotspot that they had one in durian flavor, I decided that it'd be fun to take my taste buds on a sensory adventure. (Durian, for those of you who don't know, is a most pungent fruit commonly found in southeast Asia. Typically, one thinks of garbage when its overbearing scent hits their nostrils. It's even forbidden to be transported to the U.S. and many hotels in Singapore won't let you step foot inside their doors if you have one in your possession. But if you can get over the smell, what's found underneath the skin is surely worth the sacrifice that your poor nose must endure!)

When the waitress placed the plate in the middle of the table, I brought the tiny, triangular-shaped pastry to my lips, and paused for a second. Even in the form of ice cream, this stuff still smelled awful.

Mighty, noticing my hesitation, offered me some kind words of advice:

"My grandmotha always say, 'the worse it smell, the betta it taste.'"

I had to agree with that statement, because Vietnam has proved it to be true. I took a bite and was instantaneously overwhelmed with two sensations: disgust, and pleasure. A dichotomy that I should have anticipated, but was disappointed by nonetheless.

Regardless, I finished the whole thing, secretly hoping with every subsequent bite that my treat would get sweeter and there wouldn't be an after-smell of a landfill on a hot summer's night. It never happened...but how many people can actually say they've had durian flavored FRIED ice cream?

Guilty as charged, ya'll.

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