Photographs by Shimin Wong
Since the durian, this “king of fruits” has been much written about, along with its “queen," the mangosteen, I won't dwell on how, like grapes, they come in different varietals, with "aficionados" assessing them the way wine connoisseurs do wine. Neither will I elaborate on fans who regularly fork out obscene amounts of money to savor its pungent flesh. Nor reveal that similar to “hair of the dog” remedies, a time-honored way of ridding one’s fingers of residual scent and body of excess “heat” (a traditional Chinese medicinal concept), is to fill the empty durian shell with water and salt and stir with said fingers before downing the brine.
I will instead point out the red bucket suspended in the air—a common sight in many of Asia’s family-run businesses. Used in place of an electronic cash register, it’s rigged to a simple bell-and-pulley system. Each time money changes hands, the hawker simply reaches for the bucket and does his thing. This works well in small, open-air enterprises, where everyone is alerted to the bucket’s whereabouts by its jingling bell. No one person has monopoly over the register, and there’s no need to abandon one’s post so as to traipse to the back of a shop for change.
Oh, did I mention that the thorny fruit weighs so heavily on the local psyche that women openly and admiringly discuss the number of “durian seeds” (abdominal muscles) their men sport?
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