I want to be able to tell you that the worst thing I ever ate was, like, a wriggling cupful of live centipedes or a bucket of sand or, like, my own tongue: Something genuinely, universally unenjoyable and downright objectionable, which only the very most diseased psychotic person or most committed pretentious foodie twerp could pretend to like. More: I want to be able to say that my palate is so sophisticated that I've been able to find something to enjoy—Oooh, this still-beating sewer rat's heart is delightfully gamey—in literally everything that I ever ate. That's sort of the ideal, right? To so fully develop one's capacity for enjoyment that virtually all experience is pleasurable in some way or another? Yes? No? Whatever, jerk.
In any case, there's something... I dunno, disappointing? vaguely shameful? culturally chauvinistic? ...about saying that the worst thing one ever ate on purpose is a foodstuff that, on the far side of the planet, millions upon millions of people actively seek out and eat and enjoy with real, sincere enthusiasm, which is why I am spinning my rhetorical wheels instead of telling you about the time I gagged and nearly vomited from consuming the durian fruit.
This happened several years ago. My brother-in-law, an adventurous eater on par with all but the very least-discerning vaccuum cleaners, picked up one of the notorious spiky deathballs at our local Intimidating International Grocer, brought it over, and cut it up. Over the years, he and I have (metaphorically) clasped (metaphorical) hands (I mean, we have hands, duh, but we've never (non-metaphorically) clasped them before) and taken (literal!) (metaphorical) fliers on oddball foodstuffs many times; for a while there, this was a nearly ritualistic behavior on our part. I think the durian was the beginning of the end of that.
It took several minutes of determined hacking, whacking, standing back and muttering What the fuck?, and then finally ax-ing, before the alien-egg-pod-looking sonofabitch (the durian, not my brother-in-law) finally cracked open and split in half for us. Its insides were immediately horrifying: dry fibrous pithlike flesh, dividing chambers in which appeared for all the world to be incubating chicken fetuses sheathed in pale-piss-yellow albumen. Only, like, not quite as appetizing as all that. Nothing about it appeared or smelled (the smell!) or felt even remotely fruitlike. Wan and pale and oddly dry and the whole thing disturbingly fleshlike, an ancient wooden cannonball stuffed with dismembered and unidentifiable corpse-parts and glued to a tree, medieval Southeast-Asian psyops, to fall on some poor villager's head at an opportune moment and portend the invasion.
About that smell. I'd like to hang elaborate adjectives on it, but the flat reality is that it smelled like honeydew melon and rotten onions. Rotten onions don't smell good, as you're well aware; somehow, the added melon smell makes the durian fruit smell even worse, like your olfactory receptors are reeling at the sheer incongruity of the two combined scents.
The thing is, there's a reason why, oh, say, oranges have a tough leathery skin: it's an evolutionary adaptation designed to rebuff the advances of animals that might otherwise chow down on the orange tree's seeds and prevent them from growing into new orange trees. That skin, like banana skin and melon rind and coconut shell, is saying stay out, assholes. The durian fruit is encased in fucking wood—and not just any wood, but wood formed into a phalanx of legitimately pointy fucking spikes—and then you hack the stupid goddamn thing open and it smells like you just unearthed a long-dead Slavic person, and it fucking looks like an incubator for goddamn alien bioweapons. What is the durian fruit trying to tell us? It's trying to say don't fucking eat me, morons. Hell, it's not just trying to say that. It is saying that. It is shrieking that. It is writing that on the side of your car with a tommygun as it races by at a hundred miles an hour lobbing Molotov cocktails at anything that moves. Why aren't we listening?
OK, maybe you're listening. We weren't. With a paring knife my intrepid brother-in-law hacked off small bites and we fired 'em down. Or tried to, anyway. Mine never quite made it down, and for that I am thankful because it means I never gave ass-birth to a litter of alien onion-chickens.
What did it taste like? It fucking tasted like rotten onions. What the fuck did I expect?
Tell us about the worst thing you ever ate on purpose, below. Not the time you drank some milk from the carton before realizing it expired in 1971; not the time you were booking it for the border on your sweet moped and a dragonfly totally flew down your throat. A time you took a chance on something and it was fucking awful.
Go. Do it. Do it now.