Aug 16, 2013

Part of the story

Mangosteen, durian, rambutan.

You have heard those words since you were born. Exotic words from Indonesia. Words that spell-check doesn't recognize. Words for strange fruit that ought to belong in an alien world.

Your parents lived in Indonesia before you existed. All three of your siblings lived there, and they tell stories. Oh, the stories. 


A thick dark purple rind surrounds a mystery. 

It was strange that there was a fruit 
I had never even heard of that was commonplace 
to other people. 
It's like you go to a market and pick up this fruit 
and you have no idea what's inside. 
I remember opening it and being surprised
 at how white the inside was. 
The size and shape of the cloves reminded me of garlic. 
You have that in the back of your mind
 and then you take a bite of it, 
and it's just sweet and juicy. 
It's a mystery that soon becomes a part of your life. 


"The King of Fruit." 
It is the stinkiest fruit in the world. Hedgehog shaped and massive, reeking of all things putrid. Some consider it a delicacy - like stinky cheese or fine wine. 
Fancy Malaysian hotels post "NO DURIAN ALLOWED" signs in their lobbies. 
Your family knows this.
You hear the stories. 


I remember driving down the street
 with Mom when I was little, 
and we would pass fruit vendors in little huts.
Huge bunches of rambutan hung from the eves, 
alternating with the bunches of bananas. 
Big clumps of hairy red fruit. 
I thought it was funky. 
But do I have a specific memory about rambutan?
That's like asking for a specific memory 
about strawberries. 
We ate it all the time. 
It tastes like my childhood. 


It is summer 2013. You are living in a medium sized Minnesotan town. Those stories are unreachable now. On the other side of the world, on the other side of time. 

But the stories are inside you, and they won't let go.


Walking into an Asian store, you are enveloped in the scent of a foreign culture. Smell of spices, fish, unfamiliar fruits, deep frost from blue crabs on ice, cans of fried gluten and pickled eggs and minnow paste and coconut cream, fragrant jasmine rice, suckers made of mango and covered in red pepper, dried peas coated in horseradish, freezers with red bean popsicles, ginger ale with whole ginger roots swirling in the small glass bottles. 
It's a different world.

And then you see the rambutan.
They are small and the spines are turning brown on the edges.
But it doesn't matter.
This is your chance to experience the stories. 

Your mom won't tell you what's inside. It's a surprise. A mystery, just for you.
You sister-in-law cuts into one as you watch, fascinated as the inside is revealed. It could be anything! Bright colors, small seeds, a large pit. Soft, slimy, crunchy?
She pulls the tough skin back slowly and suddenly squeals laughter, It feels like a cow's eyeball! she exclaims as the fruit pops out of its socket.

By this time everyone is laughing in delight as if the inside of a rambutan is a miracle.
It is.

You slice the flesh off of the pit - because guess what? there's a pit too - and you take your first bite.
It is sweet, subtle, exciting.
Slimy? A bit.
It's like a grape without skin.
It's like magic.
You are part of the story.


  1. This is beautifully written, Inna. Those fruits are fascinating! I googled the other two to find out what they looked like. I'd love to try them someday (although I'd have to be brave to try the stinky one!).

  2. On the other side of time.

    There is magic in that; in your soul.

  3. how amazing! your blog is incredibly lovely and wonderful.

  4. Hi Inna, I am Citra from Indonesia, very excited to found this blog, you're very creative. At first I play Pinterest then I found your DIY fork project, it's awesome!! Then I go to this blog , and read this post, "Rambutan, Durian" as you know it's delicious, one of my fav fruits from my country Indonesia. "Salam kenal" hope someday you will visit Indonesia. I am from Bandung, it's a city in west java. Where did your parents live in Indonesia? Thanks Inna "Terimakasih"

  5. I ate rambutan, durian and mangosteen in the Philippines. The mangosteen was wonderful! It's so cool that you were able to experience the stories of your family!


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