So Much Fruit

posted by Alicia Harper

Americans tend to be comfortable with the idea that they know it all, thinking that they have seen everything and refuse to be told any differently. Though I try stay away from this frame of mind, I found myself arriving in Cambodia with a sense of arrogance. I had read a lot about it and believed I would step into this foreign place with an ease and grace that many foreigners would not be able to muster. I was mistaken.

Every single thing about Cambodia is different, and the food is no exception. There have already been two casualties of Cambodian barbeque, but I refuse to limit myself to western food for the rest of my time here. I was able to experience an authentic Khmer market when two fellow classmates and me were the only visitors to the site that were not local. We were greeted by fruit stands as far as the eye could see, filled with a rainbow of edibles that seemed to only exist in a dream. The first to capture my attention were the vast banana stands stocked full of mini green fruits that are usually eaten in Cambodia after they are fried or sun-dried. Next we shuffled to a surprising guest, avocados, which are very difficult to find in Cambodia because they are only grown in the Mondulkiri province. Next up were the mangoes and papayas that are best served here in a fruit shake that puts Smoothie King to shame.

Beyond the normal, we began to pass a series of unfamiliar fruits with very odd appearances and names. The dragon fruit, with bright red skin on the outside that can be eaten raw, and kiwi like flesh with black seeds on the inside, can be used to cleanse the palate. Next to it was the milk fruit, which is native only to Cambodia and Vietnam. The round fruit is red and green in color, with sweet and juicy white flesh. Next sat the curious and exotic rambutans, which sport a hairy red outer shell with a surprisingly sweet and delicious fruit inside.

Last but certainly not least, we crossed paths with the king of all tropical fruit, the durian. Famous for its unique and potent odor, it is able to clear out a room when it begins to reek of the dead body smell that many have described. The flesh is yellow and creamy, covered by a spiky and ominous skin. Since coming to Cambodia, I have been warned of this forbidden fruit by many who say that it smells like hell but tastes like heaven. Eager to sink my teeth in this legendary delicacy, Kristy, Lindsey and I purchased a ripe durian for the cool price of three dollars. The stand owner cracked it open and bagged it for us so it was a ready to eat. The taste was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, a burst of creamy fruit flavor followed by a hint of death that lingered in your mouth until you chugged water for at least three minutes. Proud for having tried it, I attempted to give the remnants of out snack to others, who politely, and adamantly declined.

As I left the market, I was overcome with a sense of ignorance that I had never experienced before, but was able to feel comfort in the fact that this was not my doing. Everyone is naïve to the world around them until they seek knowledge through experience.

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