You Don’t Know Jack

 I’ve been working on getting Greg to try durian fruit. He’s a big ‘fraidy cat, and while he’s made it past the sniff test, he still won’t buy one. Granted, they can get pretty big. So I figured we’d start off small, and picked up a baby jackfruit in Chinatown on Saturday.

Jackfruit can grow up to 80 pounds each, so this little 1.5 pounder definitely qualified as a “baby”. What I didn’t realize is that jackfruit come in crunchy and custardy versions, and while I was familiar with the crunchy one from 20 years ago when I first moved to Toronto and ran around Chinatown buying anything I didn’t recognize, I’d never had a custardy one.

Related to breadfruit, jackfruit comes from Southeast Asia. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and the seeds can be eaten as well. To cut the fruit open, all surfaces (knife, hands, board) must be oiled, as the fruit oozes a sticky white latex that sticks to everything.

Herein lies the problem. I had no real trouble cutting the fruit open. I had no trouble dealing with the stench of rotting onions that the exterior emitted. But those little blobs of custardy fruit tasted like… latex.

Flavours and especially smells, being connected with emotion and memory, can sometimes take us to unexpected places. For me, that first mouthful of jackfruit (and all the ones after that – I kept trying, hoping I’d get over it) reminded me EXACTLY of sitting in the dentist’s chair as a kid.

I had a lot of dental work done as a child, lots and lots of fillings in my soft, British-gened teeth. And every time the dentist did a filling back then, they’d put a dental dam around the tooth to keep bits of stuff from going into the rest of the mouth. Nowadays, they come in flavours, but are still made of a “natural latex”. But the taste of latex is a very distinct one, and as I chewed away at the little gobs of jackfruit, I started to gag.

I was eight years old again, sitting in the dentist’s chair, with that awful, horrible taste of latex against my tongue.

Fortunately, Greg liked the jackfruit, and has no such childhood trauma. Also fortunately, it was just a baby jackfruit, not a massive 80-pounder.