Saturday, March 13, 2010

Smells Like Hell, Tastes Like Heaven

Supposedly Mark Twain said, "If one person calls you an ass, ignore him. If two people call you an ass, check for tracks. If three people call you an ass, buy a saddle."

Well, two families of people from Vietnam speak to me with words of hate, and so implicitly are calling me an "ass." And so, I guess that I should go and buy a saddle.

But I still love those people very much -- a little girl named Nhu more than any of them. They enriched my life so much, and I miss them all.

One of the things I learned about during my relationship with little Nhu's family, before I began to be ostracized, is the strange fruit of the Vietnamese people called sau rieng, or durian fruit, in English.

Sau rieng grows wild and on farms in Southeast Asia. The fruits are big and covered with large, nasty thorns. If, when ripe, they fall upon a passerby, they can inflict quite an injury.

The sau rieng is is an extremely sweet fruit filled with sulfur. The sulfur content is so high that sau rieng fruit can give off quite a pungent odor -- so strong an odor that the Vietnamese smile and say, "It smells like hell, but it tastes like heaven!"

Once I was invited to a birthday party for one of little Nhu's cousins. As I sat at the dining room table, someone in the kitchen unpacked the cake made in part of sau rieng fruit, and cut herself a slice.

A minute later I smelled a very bad smell, and I thought with alarm, "Most of these people are immigrants! They may not realize that the gas company mixes an odor into natural gas, so that gas leaks can be detected!" So I jumped up and said, "I think that the oven here has a leak -- and it smells like a big one! I think that we have to take care of this, friends!"

My Vietnamese hosts all burst out laughing, because they knew the source of the problem.

"No! Really!," I persisted, "I think that you have a gas leak!" That made them laugh even harder.

Nhu's great aunt, a beautiful lady with perpetually sad eyes with the American name Sandy, took me aside and gave me a piece of the cake responsible for my reaction, and told me about sau rieng.

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