Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cans and Cannots

Grandma said never to can durian. Ever since Barbara had started canning with Grandma at the age of 6 she would hear about the right way to can beans, the proper way to pickle beets, and the best way to preserve tomatoes. But grandma said there was no good way to can durian. It wasn't as if there was any to be had within 6 time zones of King county so it struck Barbara as odd that the topic ever came up. No explanation would be forthcoming either since grandma died when Barbara was 12. She had a vague notion that the superstition came from grandma's stint as a nurse in the Philippines during the Pacific war but there was little reason to pursue that question. The years went by and Barbara canned pickles, corn, and peaches. But never durian.

Times change but some rules persist. Like listening to grandma.

Living near one of the most prominent ports in the U.S. provided Barbara with the opportunity to obtain exotic fruits and vegetables. Having inherited the need to garden and live in the kitchen from grandma, Barbara began buying, growing, and canning all manner of produce. The community garden near Barbara's house became the talk of the town and people now came to the local farmer's market to buy her jackfruit, tarap, and rambutan preserves. And then Barbara discovered durian at one of the Asian markets. And of course she canned it.

Several months passed and something happened in the pantry. Something grandma knew about.

Later that fall, Barbara decided it was time to dip into the winter supplies and make the first meal from her canning. As she opened the small, thick door to the pantry she knew from the smell and temperature that something was wrong. The dim light from the basement window revealed jars in all states of unnatural being: warped, bent, stuck in the wall, and even floating in midair. Only one jar at the center of this mystery remained unchanged. The jar of durian. she grabbed the jar and examined it. The contents looked suspiciously benign. She moved the jar to the far corner of the basement and spent the next few minutes marveling at the oddities on, in, and around the shelves. Finally, she remembered dinner and grabbed two jars of tomatoes, one of which was imperceptibly longer than it should have been.

Two days passed and, though grandma would have warned her, Barbara did nothing about the pantry.

All seemed to return to normal. Though the jars were shaped oddly the food seemed to still be good. With the durian jar in the corner the jars even began returning to their original shape. But somthing HAD altered the food. Soon, strange maladies began to plague Barbara and her family. Ears became larger, noses smaller, purple sweat, and unusual dreams. The conditions were not permanent, any more than were the conditions of the jars, but Barbara decided to dispatch with the year's canning just in case. In the process of tossing the precious jars of food, however, she forgot about the durian in the corner. It was now sitting on a concrete swell and giving off a purple glow.

Slow years passed and even grandma would have been surprised at what happened.


teachiro said...

Your story makes me even more curious to try durian. Have you ever had it? If so how would you describe it? Such a mythic food, and your imaginative tale has only enhanced its intrigue.

rory said...


abbi said...

nice one..i haven't tried the fruit yet but i've tasted candies made of durian.. :) i like it, don't like the smell, thouh.

abbi said...


veraLeigh said...

This is an interesting story to read, especially as I am from the Philippines.

Durian is Davao City's most famous fruit, and made into different candies and delicacies.

It has a very distinct smell which many would say bad (personally, I think it smells like milk and overripe fruit), thereby occasionally making it an example to sayings that have similar morals to "Don't judge the book by its cover."

I only ate fresh durian once and it felt milky-something in the tongue.