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Durian Days Revisited
by Frederic Patenaude
Concerning the Most Desirable, Effusive,
Wild and Elegant Fruit, and the Ways of the Wild
Have you ever had a fresh durian? Ever spent $30 for one of them? Ever had the chance to try the most amazing fruit of all? You may have seen one at an Asian market, but thought $30 was too much for one fruit, and so left the store without buying it. Or maybe you tried a frozen durians recommended in a previous article (issue#1). Some of you might have loved it,while others may not have. You may have thought it tasted weird, or got repulsed by the smell, or perhaps what you detected to be similar to a slight garlic-onion flavor. If you are one who did not enjoy your first encounter with a durian, I encourage you to try it again. This time you may understand why most raw eaters and Asian people swear by them, and love them so much they end up throwing all their money in that never-ending well that soon denudes them of all their material possessions only for the selfish desire of tasting the creamy, heavenly substance of the seductive durian.
After eating a few perfect durians, I concluded that experiencing the fruit is essential to ones understanding of human evolution.
An Unusual Fruit
For those who have never heard of this fruit, the durian is a weird looking, strong smelling fruit that grows in South-East Asia. It resembles a spiked American football, is brown (almost yellow when ripe), and its smell has been compared to a sewage tank. The fruit separates into five segments, after being split open. The meat of the fruit is a creamy substance surrounding the chestnut-like seeds. The edible part of the durian has been compared in taste to cheese cake, onion flavored custard, or chocolate mousse. Those who most enjoy this fruit are often raw eaters, Asians, or appreciative of unusual tastes.
Because the durian has such an unusual look, smell, and taste, it is the perfect incarnation of mysterious and wild life. Staring at a durian may brings one visions of what living meant when human life on this planet was more wild and natural. After all, there is no other like it. Nothing comparable to it. It has aspect that inspire respect, awe, and even fear. A meditation that may help us understand this wild fruit is to look at it and visualize it in a damp, dark, tropical forest, being fought over by diverses creatures, amidst sounds and energies many modern humans have never experienced.
Favorite Fruit of the Orangutans
Orangutans are exceptionally fond of the durian. Authors writing about the life of these animals often mention how durian is the favorite fruit of the orangutan. They often mention being quite puzzled by the fact that this stinky, weird-looking fruit is their favorite.
Scientists spend all day observing orangutans delighted eating the strange fruit; walking across under the wild durian trees, then retire to camp and eat cooked meat and bread. How strange it is that the scientists do not consider why they are spending time and energy to prepare cooked food after observing thriving wildlife that feasts on wild fruits taken directly from Nature.
Like those scientists who spend years observing the beasts of the wilderness, we all have a lesson to learn from the strong and energetic animals who thrive on wild, raw fruits and plant life.
The repulsion that Westerners have for the durian is the perfect representation of humanitys departure from the wild. As much as a diet of raw foods may be considered an extreme next to the present day diet of cooked food, cultivated foods over wild foods represent an even more profound alienation from Nature.
We Once lived on Wild Foods
We once lived the life of gatherers, entirely subsisting on wild foods. Agriculture and the whole science of cultivating foods came very recently in our history: about 10,000 years ago. Before that time, humans like every other animal on this planet, lived on what was growing in their natural environment, most likely never planting a seed on purpose or watering a plant by artificial means. Now the idea of returning to such a state couldnt even cross the minds of many living in modern society.
Because they have been altered by man, many of the plants grown on modern farms, including fruits, vegetables, grains, need our attention to stay alive. They need water, proper care, compost, etc. Even those of us who have home gardens are growing seeds that have been altered by humans. If we were to stop to watering our gardens and tending to the vegetables, they would likely die miserably within a few weeks. This is because many of the plants we grow for food are artificially adapted to our climate and cant even grow by themselves. Though they may provide us with tender and pleasing produce, they are most likely weak plants that cannot survive unassisted.
Such weak seedlings cannot sustain life to its highest level. A plant that cannot grow by itself in Nature is not likely to have enough life-force to turn us into vibrant beings. Every analysis you can read will show how wild foods have, by far, the highest amount of vitamins and minerals. For example, wild dandelion contains more beta-carotene than any other cultivated vegetable, even though it does not receive any additional compost, and grows often where the soil is of poor quality.
Wild foods are superior on every nutritional level to cultivated foods, besides the fact that they will grow without human care and give without needing anything. If wild foods are so far superior to hybridized foods, you might ask: then why did we start to cultivate foods in the first place? Why didnt we just keep freely eating what just naturally grew around us, instead of messingwith the plants, grafting them, selecting them, and soon having to plow, sow, water, and work the soil to harvest our miserable pittance.
Although nowadays we can reason that plants are hybridized for economical reasons, to create bigger, tougher, rounder, cold resistant plants, etc. But this alone cannot explain why humans began modern methods of agriculture.
How Cooking Began
Let us suppose for a moment that all tribes of humans on this planet were once eating all raw foods, until one fateful day when they got to taste something cooked, after having discovered fire and cooking a food by pure accident. Perhaps it was a cooked sweet potato and they found this to be quite a new and tasty experience. It tasted a lot sweeter than the raw root, and they found themselves eating a lot of it, not experiencing a taste change, like every other mono raw eater would. The taste change (alliestetic change) a raw eater experiences indicates when its time to stop eating a certain food. After the taste changes, the food becomes less attractive: too acid, bitter, sweet, bland, etc. The taste change we are talking about happens when you eat foods one at a time, in their raw, unadulterated state. It is part of our genetic makeup, and is an instinct that regulates our nutritional intake.
But going back to our early chefs, what do you think happened the next day? They found that, being overloaded with this cooked starch, their attraction for the typical wild, raw fruits they were eating at the time decreased tremendously. They didnt taste as full and sweet, and our cooks just wanted to eat more of the heavy, cooked sweet potato instead.
The situation probably got worse after they started eating cooked cereals. Grains grown are hybridized version of grass seeds, and are much higher in starch (false sugar), than all the primitive cooked-foods humans ate. This means more sugar overload, and decreased attraction for natural wild fruits. Some modern research indicates that cereals contain compounds that are chemically addictive. (See side-bar)
Could it be possible that we are not really adapted to the plants our ancestors bred for thousands of years? Why are the fruits and vegetables created by modern agriculture techniques less than excellent for us? Our ancestors certainly have not done much different than reproduce plants that seemed nourishing and ,but nothing apparently different than what is done in the rest of the animal world.
But there is one factor that differentiates todays mass marketed fruits and vegetables at a fundamental level. And this may very well be the spontaneous selection as it occurred originally, and what it became since humans started to alter their foods. It is that our sense of taste ceased to function normally. Once the metabolism was surcharged with cooked sweet potato, manioc, taro, and other first foods in this ever advancing gastronomy, our ancestors couldnt experience in the same way the flavors in the natural fruits and vegetables. They then automatically preferred and started to propagate the fruits they found good in spite of their altered physiological state, which were the fruits that, following a genetic accident, were forcing the instinctive barrier. In other words, all the fruits that were the most adapted to us didnt taste good to us anymore, and all the fruits that were the least adapted passed this disrupted instinctive taste barrier.
Now, since this selection of plants has been done since the beginning of modern agriculture, over 10,000 years ago, if you were to go wander in most tropical jungles of the world, you would be surprised to find how little food there is to eat. Almost nothing edible, just enough to let starve the poor unaware camper who would venture without a plethora of canned goods
It would seem quite surprising that Nature would refuse us the foods we are supposed to thrive on.
Wild Fruits Still in Existence
There are some places though, where a huge variety of the most amazing fruits is still growing in the wild. These include durian, cempedak, rambutan, and other delights that can only be appreciated by the pure taste buds of the raw eater. These places are the jungles in South-East Asia where some of the great apes live. Only they were left to practice natural and wild permaculture for all these eons. When they like a fruit, or another natural food, they eat it and carry the swallowed seeds inside them, thus propagating the species they prefer. They then create, after hundreds of years, the food environment best suited to them. Since our tastes are still very close to theirs, its only in the regions where the primates live that we may find an abundance of edible, wild fruits.
Humans intoxicated with cooked-foods cannot appreciate the pure taste of wild fruits. For them, wild foods are not sweet enough, or, to the cooked food eater, carry a weird flavor. Adults especially, after a lifetime of feeding on cooked starch, cannot even appreciate the flavor of a wild blueberry without adding cream and/or sugar. These same people when they were children were probably very fond of the wild berries, eating the fruits straight from the bush. But as they became older they could not find the sweetness and flavor of the old days, thinking that the pollution or the weather probably had something to do with the change of taste, and ended up wasting the good fruit under a mountain of cream and baking them into horrible pies and other cooked concoctions
How many of us remember eating raw carrots like Bugs Bunny, and hating the taste of cooked carrots and peas as a child before finally, after years of eating other cooked foods, finally getting a taste for cooked vegetables? Many of us even change from desiring raw, unaltered fruits and vegetables as a child, to desiring the same food items in a cooked form. The surprise that many who change to a raw-food diet experience is that, after a period of time, they gain back an appreciation of raw, unaltered fruits and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables suddenly become as good as when one wos six-year-old. Did the fruit change? No. Did ones taste change? Yes.
Repulsion for the Durian
This brings me back to the topic of the durian. I never thought the durian smelled bad. I think it smells quite good in fact, like being amidst a field of flowers. I certainly do not understand how one could compare the smell of the durian to a sewage tank! But that is how I have heard others describe durians.
When we see how Westerners are repulsed by the durian, while all the raw eaters and great apes revere it, it becomes very clear how cooked food is affecting our perception of taste and smell. The homo culinaris has been surcharged with cooked hybridized plants for thousands of years and cant even enjoy the taste of the wild plants that are the most adapted to their physiology. All the plants we once were thriving on are gone, except for the few precious jungles were the monkeys have been doing the work of natural selection for us.
Many of the fruits and vegetables enjoyed by humans for thousands of years still exist. But they are growing wild in areas not often visited by humans. While there are many plants that have become extinct, many still exist. So paradise is not quite lost. If bulldozers dont go too fast over these precious jungles, we might be able to gather some of the seeds and grow the plants in all appropriate climates of the world. Otherwise well be left to eat tasteless oranges and bananas for more eons to come
"( ) an increasing array of arguments over recent years has suggested that agriculture, far from being a natural and upward step, in fact led commonly to a lower quality of life. Hunter-gatherers typically do less work for the same amount of food, are healthier, and are less prone to famine than primitive farmers (Lee & DeVore 1968, Cohen 1977, 1989). This paradox is responsible for a profusion of models of the origin of agriculture.( )
'Few topics in prehistory', noted Hayden (1990) 'have engendered as much discussion and resulted in so few satisfying answers as the attempt to explain why hunter/gatherers began to cultivate plants and raise animals. Climatic change, population pressure, sedentism, resource concentration from desertification, girls' hormones, land ownership, geniuses, rituals, scheduling conflicts, random genetic kicks, natural selection, broad spectrum adaptation and multicausal retreats from explanation have all been discussed to explain domestication. All have major flaws ... the data do not accord well with any one of these models. " Greg Wadley & Angus Martin -- The origins of agriculture ? A biological perspective and a new hypothesis.
Prompted by a possible link between diet and mental illness, several researchers in the late 1970s began investigating the occurrence of drug-like substances in some common foodstuffs. Dohan (1966, 1984) and Dohan et al. (1973, 1983) found that symptoms of schizophrenia were relieved somewhat when patients were fed a diet free of cereals and milk. Groups led by Zioudrou (1979) and Brantl (1979) found opioid activity in wheat, maize and barley (exorphins), and bovine and human milk (casomorphin), as well as stimulatory activity in these proteins, and in oats, rye and soy. Cereal exorphin is much stronger than bovine casomorphin, which in turn is stronger than human casomorphin
Since then, researchers have measured the potency of exorphins, showing them to be comparable to morphine and enkephalin (Heubner et al. 1984), determined their amino acid sequences (Fukudome &Yoshikawa 1992), and shown that they are absorbed from the intestine (Svedburg et al.1985) and can produce effects such as analgesia and reduction of anxiety which are usually associated with poppy-derived opioids (Greksch et al.1981, Panksepp et al.1984) ... Are humans somehow 'addicted' to these foods?
Greg Wadley & Angus Martin -- The origins of agriculture ? A biological perspective and a new hypothesis.
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