• Durian Hunters

    Search for distinctive fruit brings couple to Southeast Asia, spurs blog and plans for a book
  • The "king of fruits" wins loyal subjects or slays them with a single sniff.
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  • The "king of fruits" wins loyal subjects or slays them with a single sniff.
    Depending on who's tasting — and talking about — this distinctive, thorn-covered specimen, durian entices with a texture like custard, reminiscent of almonds, or it sears sinuses with an odor of turpentine and flavor of rotting onions.
    Durian, to Central Point native Lindsay Gasik, tastes like "the best vanilla ice cream in the world."
    "It's sweet and fatty like ice cream is."
    Three years after her introduction to the exotic edible, Gasik plotted a yearlong course through Southeast Asia to locate as many types of durian as possible and consume them as often as she could.
    "I went for three days once with only durian."
    Gasik's husband, 29-year-old Rob Culclasure, originated the idea of traveling the "durian trail" — as it's known to aficionados — and blogging in lieu of emailing updates to family and friends. The experience gave Gasik, 23, a chance to write regularly since abandoning a journalism major for Spanish at University of Oregon.
    "This is just sort of our own National Geographic trip," she says. "I just thought the fruit was very intriguing."
    The result is "Year of the Durian," Gasik's gastronomic guide through Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Planning her return to the Rogue Valley next week, the 2007 St. Mary's School graduate says she intends to expand the blog into a book this year.
    "The durian ended up taking us places that we never would have gone on our own."
    Crisscrossing Southeast Asia from Jan. 10 to Dec. 21 last year on a schedule roughly coinciding with durian's season in each locale, the couple began their odyssey on Indonesia's off-the-beaten-path island of Sumatra. They first encountered traffic, pollution and language barriers. But the country's largest island also boasts fresh durian year-round.
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