Comfort food is colloquial.
It has no home, just the home associated with each human being. Passed on generation after generation, steeped in history and family. Changing like a game of telephone. Embellished by our own individual experiences, tastes, adventures. My comfort food growing up was a conglomerate rooted in spaghetti Aglio E Olio and breaded Parmesan-parsley chicken from my mother Deborah, matzoh ball soup from my grandmother Silvia, and potatoes au gratin and pytt I panna from my Swedish godmother Annie who lived with my dad and I for several years after my mom and sister passed.
In my adult years I no longer feel as comforted by the heavy rich foods of my upbringing. I find healing and comfort in tropical environments where my skin is crispy and the food is light and healthy. Where I can swim until my mind is quiet. Where I can have experiences I've never had in my 30 years on this earth. I'm in Hawaii right now, visiting my dear friend who now lives out here. Beyond the love of swimming with dolphins, whales, sea turtles, and many many fish I've never seen before, I've had a true love affair with the incredible fruit of these Hawaiian islands.
Each seed is coated with this smooth, creamy gelatin like flesh you suck off of each small morsel- some chocolately notes come through. It's hard to deny the desire to bite down and eat the whole thing.
Also known as passion fruit. Orange pulp surrounded by seeds that are delicious and edible. I love scraping the inner walls to release all that goodness then slurp it down.
Soft red exterior that gives me “koosh ball” sensations triggering childhood comfort inside a gift a crisp, fresh, opaque, pristine sphere of joy.
My favorite of all. Tangy, white flesh inside a spiky queen exterior. It looks like if an avocado transformed into an indestructible being morphed into a bulbous fruit who's appearance screams “don't touch me”. But oh am I glad I did. Almost the entire inside can be eaten, it is incredible how much flesh is inside. One soursop could feed a small army, or one hungry me.
My friend from work would always bring up durian any time he smelled something foul. Describing the fruit as the most disgusting, heinous fruit with the worst lingering smell. Since then I've been terrified to try it. Celia and I went to the botanical gardens and the incredibly kind grounds keeper found us on the trail and asked if we were interested in durian. We were excited to have him grab one from way up high on the tree- he came back eager, hands bleeding from the spikes. There are 30 recognized Durio species at least nine of which produce edible fruit and over 300 named varieties In Thailand, 102 in Indonesia and 100 in Malaysia. He hands me a split open quarter of thorn covered rind that immediately punctured my hands. Celia scooped out a section of rich custard for us to try. The fragrance can evoke reactions from deep appreciation to intense disgust.
Some say, “rotten onions, turpentine, and raw sewage”. The persistence of its odor which lingers for several days has lead to its banishment from certain hotels and public transportation in Southeast Asia.
But according to the nineteenth century British naturalist, Alfred Russell Wallace, who clearly has durians back said, it was “a rich custard highly flavored with almonds”. Celia kept the seeds, washed them off to plant her own trees, the seeds can also be eaten when cooked. Who knew?
Comfort depends on your company.
When I see someone I trust jumping into the unknown waters of durian or literally the unknown waters of sea life, I follow.
I follow bravely, excitedly and with a deep slow heartbeat.