It looks as if it were made to be hurled at Mongols from the high walls of fortified battlements. Piercing spines that lace the bulbous fruit draw the eyes to a wince once you realize that you are meant to gorge upon this foreboding menace. It has been banned in public places in mainland China due to its nauseating aroma. To 19-year-old Javier Cabral, however, it couldn’t be any more inviting to a tongue that long has been at the forefront of a burgeoning career as a food critic and notable blogger on local eateries.
“The smell is a mix between dirty sweaty socks and crusted arm pits,” said Cabral of the aroma Durian, the ‘king of fruits’ emits. “It looks like a weapon, but it really has a creamy, luxurious texture like a fleshy or meaty cross between a mango and coconut.”
Cabral’s enthusiasm for abstruse foods drew the attention of the weekly Travel Channel program, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.
The show, which follows the bald headed food journalist into the recesses of the world where unique and wholly ethnic delicacies are the norm, found its insatiable appetite fixated on the Latin population of Los Angeles.
Cabral caught the attention of the producers with his blog and was featured as the traditional taste for Latin families as the scents of fresh food were carried from Cabral’s home to audiences across the globe.
“It was the headlining segment of their show, featuring a whole family,” said Cabral. “You can’t do anything L.A. without showing the influx of the Latino population.”
Visiting Cabral’s household, Zimmern was introduced to a kitchen of hardened hands preparing an array of flavors that spread a redolent induced quiver down the show-host’s spine as he threatened to ‘eat up everything’ that lay before him.
“Sunday morning we made [him] menudo. My mother used blue corn, beef tripe and pigs feet,” said Cabral. “All traditional ingredients.” The heaps of delectable offerings, prepared in the manner reminiscent of past generations that perfected these dishes, is where Cabral’s passion for food was given cultural and historical strengthening.
“I visited Zacatecas [Mexico]. I lost myself in the history there,” said Cabral who always emphasizes a firm foundation in culinary roots. “You lose yourself in so many things and there are so many types of foods.”
Cabral began his path that would have him meeting foods that sing of sweet, sour, tart, coarse, creamy, or spicy, with a curiosity that went beyond satisfying his hunger.
“I was always self conscious about my height. I’d try to see if there were any external causes for my growth. I saw that milk, when it was introduced in China, over generations, actually led to people getting taller,” said Cabral. “That led me to wanting to know where food came from and how it really affects us.”
Taking an immediate interest into international delicacies, Cabral read of plates served in places such as Vietnam or France, while he reside worlds-away in East Los Angeles.
Ever inspired by L.A. Weekly’s own food critic Jonathon Gold, Cabral began to blog towards the later years of his high school tenure, expanding his ability to articulate his passion for food and embrace every moment of his meal.
“I love all food equally at their opportune moments,” said Cabral. “How it affects us now, how it affects your future. Food is amazing, food is beautiful.”
Sparking from his recent appearance on Bizarre Food, Cabral’s dream of one day ‘being paid to eat’ reached a pivotal milestone as letters and invitations have been raining into his site.
As for being the humble representative of ethnic and original food in Los Angeles, Cabral feels confident he gave the city justice.
“[Food from home] is like licking the floor of heaven,” said Andrew Zimmern after leaving the Cabral household.
As for his taste in evil, toxic, and illegal fruit, Cabral smiles upon his tragic affair.
“[Durian] will be my death – Romeo.”
Javier Cabral’s blog can be seen at http://teenageglutster.blogspot.com
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