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Specialized ProfessionIAmA Rare fruit hunter who travels the world documenting little known and bizarre species of fruit. AMA!

Apr 13th 2018 by atlasobscura • 22 Questions • 9859 Points

Hey, Michael Imperioli here. Ask me anything! I just released my first novel and it’s out now! “The Perfume Burned His Eyes” (http://www.akashicbooks.com/catalog/the-perfume-burned-his-eyes/).

You can also catch me with Zach Braff in the new comedy series “Alex Inc.” Wednesday’s at 8:30PM/7:30PMc on ABC.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/swr3rytpudq01.jpg

Q:

What's the name of that Chinese fruit about the size of a plum, that looks and tastes like a blackberry, a plum and cherry had a wild threesome? It has a stone, lots of individual spiky segments like a raspberry and tastes amazing.

A:

I remember hearing a segment of something similar to this on an NPR radio station on my commute to work. I bet the feeling of having to be a part of a big case, who's ultimate decision could impact millions of other transgendered individuals who either serve or want to serve, is probably really daunting.

1.) My first question is; what do you really feel about going against something as enormous as this? Is it more of a "how did i even get here?" Type of feeling or has this shocked you in anyway?

2.) What type of publicity has this accumulated towards you (for lack of a better way to phrase this question). Given how national, or even global, this story has become ;; Has there been anything that someone has said to you or done to you that really impacted how you feel and such?

3.) This question is more for your legal team (since the majority of case AmA's have to be censored and questions cherry picked by the law firm so it doesn't back fire later);; how are you guys dealing with this? As a firm dealing with something this large, i bet the front desk gets loaded with phone calls for one. Do you feel prepared or stressed from the enormity of all this?

Hope this AmA can be verified soon

Thank you for your service and i wish you the best of luck.


Q:

Hey Michael,

I've always wanted to know... how much fun did you and Tony Sirico have while doing "Pine Barrens"? I can't imagine you two not bursting out laughing at some points while shooting that episode.

A:

That would be Myrica rubra Not sure what they call it in China, but in English its Strawberry tree fruit or Yumberry. I had one for the first time last month in Beijing and they are seriously delicious. Like a tart strawberry mixed with a raspberry.


Q:
  1. Sometimes I have that "how did I get here" feeling. Looking back, though, I don't think I can identify any one point in this whole process where I made the wrong choice. I definitely didn't expect the sum of those choices to lead me here, though.
  2. There are others in the trans military community who have received far more publicity than I, and I don't envy them that at all. So far, I haven't had anybody recognize me on the street or anything, and I'm perfectly happy with that.
  3. From a lawyer: "Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest nonprofit legal group advocating for the full rights of LGBTQ people and people living with HIV in the United States. We feel confident in our abilities to handle cases of this magnitude. We're honored to have Staff Sergeant Schmid as a client."
A:

we are good friends and had a ton of laughs, especially when bacala shows up in the orange hunting hat


Q:

What is the most disgusting fruit you've tried?

A:

How does the transition between genders affect your deployment status? Are you still able to deploy while undergoing gender reassignment?


Q:

Hey Spider! Two questions: 1) As you can tell I love Goodfellas so I have to ask, how was it working with Martin Scorsese? 2) What is your most prized possession, something you've had since even before the Goodfella days that you have and will never get rid of under any circumstance?

A:

Noni fruit.. It’s absolutely revolting yet a highly touted health food. It looks like a diseased kidney and tastes like if you ate a brick of cheddar cheese, vomited it on a lemon and then ate the lemon.


Q:

This is a really big misconception. Anybody who starts a new medication (including hormones) is non-deployable for 90 days. After that, you go back to deployable status.

If you have any type of surgery, then your non-deployable time depends on how long it takes you to recover from your surgery, and what your doctor recommends.

In short, it isn't as big a deal as people make it out to be.

A:

1)Marty was very kind, generous and trusting towards me on the set and really treated me like i truly belonged on that set for which i am forever grateful. 2)My most treasured possession from way back is my sanity which seems to be harder and harder to hold onto.


Q:

What are your honest thoughts about common fruits (apple, orange, pear)?

A:
  1. How often do people misgender you?
  2. Have you experienced any hazing? Sexual harassment?
  3. Have you developed any valuable friendships?
  4. How old were you when you decided you wanted to join the military? Why did you?

*Thank you for posting this, I can already see you enduring a lot of terrible comments here. You are very thick-skinned to endure that with the positivity you have.


Q:

Is there a small part of you that gets tired of being recognized from the Soprano's? Spider was awesome, too.

A:

I’ll occasionally buy some bananas at the supermarket, but after traveling the world eating all this amazing fruit, I usually end up being disappointed. Not because of them being common necessarily, but the quality of the fruit at supermarkets in the US tastes like hot garbage compared to the fruit you get in other parts of the world. The choices we get are based on what lasts longest and ships well rather than flavor. However if I go to a farmers market, I’ll pick up some more common fruit and be perfectly happy.


Q:
  1. Not often, honestly.
  2. At first, before we had equal opportunity protections, I received a lot of undue scrutiny. Since the 2016 policy change, it's been a lot better.
  3. Absolutely. Both with my fellow transgender service members and with the other women in my unit.
  4. My dad was in the Air Force, so it was always kind of a thing. And why did I? Because college didn't work out and I needed a career.
A:

if i were to be remembered by one role i would be happy its the sopranos


Q:

Hello and thank you for doing this Jared, out of all the fruits that you've tried, which one is the rarest one that you love the most and which one's the most common one that you like the least?

P.s: To add a little bit to what I asked, has your contorsionism abilities helped you to accomplish something during your fruit hunting (e.g. reaching a hard to get fruit from a narrow or steep place)?

A:

I have read the policy letter from the end of March. I'm a little confused because there had been no guidance. Has the ban changed anything yet?


Q:

Hi Michael, I'm sorry I can't not ask you about The Sopranos. How hard was it to shed Christopher's attitude after a day on set?

A:

Haha great questions. My favorite fruit is also one of the rarest that I’ve had. Its a durian relative called “Lukak” and is only available in Borneo (I think); it looks crazy, has a great texture and a flavor that is like a very fruity tasting durian without the funky parts that you have to get used to. Common fruit that I like the least is probably a fig… there are good ones out there I’m sure, but the ones you get at the supermarkets have a terrible texture and boring flavor in my opinion. About the contortion, I actually had to bring those skills into use last month. While I was out in India, I had to maneuver myself down the side of a steep hill to get some rattan fruits I found without sliding down. It involved throwing a leg up onto a branch in a contortionist kind of way.


Q:

No. The ban hasn't changed anything. Papers have been shuffled several times, but nothing has changed since the initial tweets.

A:

sometimes it would be hard to shake a certain mood of anger or frustration but the character itself i was always pretty good about leaving him on the set.


Q:

Durian: love it or hate it? (I am from Malaysia, and I will take no offense at your answer)

A:

What would you most like to tell us that no one has asked about?


Q:

Thank you so much for responding! I'm a huge fan so I'm kinda freaking out.

A:

I HATED it the first time I had it. But the thing was that I had one that I got here in the US, which are usually sold frozen and then defrosted. So of course it tasted terrible, imagine freezing a banana, then defrosting it and then eating the sludge that is left. When I tried a fresh durian in Malaysia, I liked it. I didn’t love it, its definitely a fruit that takes a bit of getting used to. But its not bad. I think a lot of people from the west hate durian because they are having the same experience I had the first time I tried it. You gotta have it fresh!


Q:

David Gerrold promised us a fourth book in the Chtorr series and hasn't delivered.

A:

thank you!


Q:

What’s your dream fruit? Like a chimera of fruit and have you found it yet?

A:

How do other soldiers (I know you cannot speak for all of them) perceive your service, as opposed to those at the top?


Q:

You’re an Emmy winning actor. You’re an author. You’re absolutely one of my favorite actors of all time. I have incredible respect for you. What’s something strange or quirky about you that no one would ever imagine?

A:

I’ve got two white whales. One is a fruit called the kesusu. Its crazy looking. Like a bunch of pears shoved together into a ball. I actually found the tree once in Borneo, but it has a bizarre growing season, so there weren’t any fruits on it. The another one is called Coco de Mer. Its a coconut relative that looks like the pelvic region of a woman, front and back. The flesh is supposed to be like a slimy coconut with mint. Its endangered and highly controlled though, so I don’t know if I’ll ever get to try that one…


Q:

My service, I think, speaks for itself. When other soldiers are looking at me, they're not seeing "a trans soldier", they're seeing a Staff Sergeant. And that's really what matters.

A:

i hate watching violence in movies, and am very squeamish


Q:

Which ordinary fruit do you like the most?

A:

Do you plan to stay in the military long term or (if not)what do your future plans look like outside the military?


Q:

How did you feel about your death in The Sopranos? Did you think it was a good end to Christopher's story?

A:

A good soft peach from a farmers market.


Q:

I have another 7 years left until retirement. After that, who knows.

A:

i think christopher's death was spot on and very necessary to the story, especially in terms of who tony became...which is, in the end, a vicious criminal


Q:

Have you ever died from eating a rare fruit?

A:

Why do you think so many people in the thread are trying to conflate the issue of the military paying for transition-related medical costs with the competency of transgender people being able to perform military duties?

It seems to me that these are entirely separate issues, and that others are incorrectly dismissing your ability to perform your duties purely because they don't want their tax dollars being spent on transitions. What would your response to these people be?


Q:

Very true, really spoke to his true character no matter how much he was adored. Best of luck with the book, I look forward to giving it a read!

A:

So far I'm still breathing. I have eaten a few fruits that can kill you though. One that comes to mind is the very common ornamental plant Yew Berries. Your parents probably told you not to eat them at some point. The fruit itself is sweet, but if you eat a few of the seeds it can kill you.


Q:

It's called "moving the goalposts". They make the accusation that it's prohibitively expensive, then when they're shown it's not, they make the accusation that I'm incapable of my duties. Then, when they're shown I'm not, they move back to the spending argument.

A:

thank you !


Q:

Can you remove the seeds and still eat the fruit?

A:
  1. Thank you for your service.

  2. What would you say is the biggest misconception about transgendered service members?


Q:

Michael, thank you for your tremendous career. If Tony had not killed Christopher after the car accident, do you think there was any chance at reconciliation between the two characters? Also, if not, do you think Christopher would have attempted to harm Tony eventually?

A:

Yep. When I tried it I just squeezed them and the seeds pop out. Some people put whole ones in their mouth and spit out the seeds… but if you hiccup or something and accidentally swallow a few of those.. Its bad news. By the way I should probably put a disclaimer here saying: Don’t try this at home.


Q:

There are several. Look at this thread. 😜

  1. That we're mentally unstable.
  2. That it's a cosmetic thing and not medically-necessary.
  3. That we're unsure of who we "really" are.
  4. That being trans at all impacts our ability to do our jobs.
A:

I think what happened was exactly what needed to happen so its hard for me to envision an alternate version to be honest


Q:

How do you define "weird"? I could imagine a ton of regional difference on what is "weird" or not. Americans, for example, might find durian weird, where someone from Malaysia or Thailand might not.

A:

Not trying to be a dick here, but how is getting transgender surgery considered medically necessary?


Q:

Is your book based on actual events?

A:

Weird is definitely a relative term. I use it based on what is different or interesting for me personally. I’ll review a lot of stuff in the US also like the pawpaw, which is everywhere in some states but impossible to find where I live in NYC. people will comment “What are you talking about, these are taking over my backyard!” so it’s really meant to be my personal exploration on what is new to me.


A:

it is not based on actual events but Lou Reed is a character in the book and he did live in NYC in the mid 70s where the book is set


Q:

What's the story of how you became interested in weird fruit exploration, and when/how did it turn from a general interest into a full-blown hobby that involved traveling the entire world?

A:

Vets and trans are the two most likely groups to commit suicide what are your thoughts on allowing someone to be both?


Q:

As soon as I saw the title of the book, I wondered if it was the lyric from Reed’s Romeo and Juliette. I love the imagery he paints in that song.

I’m a big fan of your acting and will definitely check out the book!

A:

Ooh thats a big question. In a nutshell. I was raised vegetarian and have always has a very jaded palate. My parents didn’t let me have junk food, so I gravitated to the produce section and was always on whatever new thing i could find. Flash forward about 20 years and I’m making my living as a contortionist and traveling in Malaysia for that. There I found myself in fruit heaven. I started documenting my findings and now 5 years later and its become an addiction that requires me to go all around the world. I couldn’t be happier.


Q:

The reality is these aren't two different groups. There are already transgender service members and transgender veterans. The question is if we're really going to leave them out to dry.

A:

sorry that should be "the better part of two years"


Q:

What are your feelings on pineapple as a pizza topping?

A:

Thank you for your service. However do you think your presence and lawsuit compromises unit cohesion? For instance do fellow soldiers roll their eyes when teased by others for being part of “that persons” platoon...company...even battalion?


Q:
  1. I enjoyed the one episode of "Girls" you did. Would you work with Judd Apatow, Lena Dunham, or Jenni Konner again?

  2. When you agree to do the Sopranos, were you worried about being typecast as "Mafia guy" from then on?

A:

I think there is a lot of potential using fruit in more savory applications, so I'm all for it. Personally though I usually go for a plain slice.


Q:

The biggest response I've gotten from other soldiers specifically asking about the lawsuit is "Wait, can you do that?" (Spoiler alert: Yes.)

I know my first Sergeant has rolled his eyes a couple of times. But the fact that this is going on doesn't make me a "problem soldier". And I think that's what most everybody is concerned about. The first question is "can you do that?" and the second question is "well, is she still doing her job?" (Spoiler alert: Yes.)

A:

i loved doing the show "girls" and would gladly work with any of that team again

i was never worried about being typecast from the sopranos because it was a unique and groundbreaking show


Q:

Is there any fruit that is close to extinction?

A:

[deleted]


Q:

Is writing a book something you have always had an interest in doing?

A:

Yes... I don't have numbers, but I'm fairly certain we are losing species every year due to deforestation. I've spent a lot of time fruit hunting in Malaysia. And if you look out the window as you are flying in, you just see hundreds of miles of palm oil plantations stretching out into the distance. A lot of rare fruit trees are just mowed down, it's unbelievably disturbing.


Q:

Any medical care I receive, whether it's transition-related or not, is part of what I earn by being a service member, just like any other service member.

A:

I have wanted to write a book for many years, have started a bunch but have never finished till now


Q:

I really liked that article about the Egg of the Sun, didn't know those even existed. We love mangoes, do you know if it's possible to get them shipped? (These particular ones) I may just have to put this on my bucket list to go to Japan to get one.

Also, I'm loving reading your AMA

A:

If it requires medical treatment, why isn't it perceived as a pre-existing medical condition?


Q:

Thanks ... I wish Detroit 187 would have stayed on longer, really good show, my wife and I enjoyed it a great deal and you were a big reason it was so good.

A:

I’m not sure if you can get them shipped from Japan, maybe from the shop Sembikaya (it's like a jewelry store for expensive fruit). If you did manage to get one, I would expect to spend hundreds of dollars for one… so it might be cheaper to fly to Japan and get one from a super market. If you are in the US, you can probably get an Irwin mango shipped from Florida. They are the same exact species, just without all the pampering that they do in Japan. It might not be AS good, but it would be close. And I’m so glad you liked the atlasobscura article!


Q:

A medical condition is only prohibitive if it's duty-limiting. It's not comparable to diabetes or flat feet, it's more comparable to a cisgender service member who develops low-testosterone, or menopause. You take a couple pills and drive on.

A:

thank you !


Q:

Have you been to Colombia to try all their crazy fruit? What did you think of the one that comes in a long pod, like stones covered in damp cotton wool (the cotton wool being that part you actually eat)?

A:

What would you say has been the biggest challenge of being a trans woman in the military that the majority might not face or understand?

And as someone who does not live in the U.S., how can I help from afar?


Q:

do you have a favorite story of working with Tony Sirico on the sopranos that you can share with us?

Thanks man!

A:

I was in Bogota just for a layover and found something like 20 fruits I never had. I really need to go back! The fruit you’re talking about is called Ice Cream Bean in English, over there they call is Guama I think (might be spelling that wrong). I found four different varieties throughout my travels the worst of them tasted like a mealy pear, the best one actually tasted like vanilla ice cream. Really an underutilized fruit. I think people in the US would love them if they were more common.


Q:

The words "tremendous burden" from the initial tweet still ring in my ears. The weight of knowing that attitude is so persistent is, well, tremendous.

A:

i loved being lost in the snowy woods with tony and being forced to survive on ketchup packets!


Q:

Are there good markets or websites in the US I can buy rare fruit from? What should I try first, that I can't find at my regular grocery store?

A:

What's been one of the biggest challenges you've faced while being a beacon of hope for so many of us transgender service members? Have you faced any difficulties that you did not expect to face?


Q:

Hi Michael,

I loved both the Sopranos and your character. I have recently started watching an Italian series called Gomorrah (which follows a mob family set in southern Italy) and am obsessed with that to.

Are you a mob film/series enthusiast and if so: favourite movie and favourite series?

A:

Sure, check out miamifruit.org or robertishere.com It can be a bit pricey to get fruit in the mail, but I have used both of them and it was a good experience. Miamifruit has a bunch of weird stuff Yellow dragon fruits are delicious and crazy looking. Robert is here carrys Black Sapotes, which look like green tomatoes filled with chocolate pudding.


Q:

The biggest challenge and the one I least expected is that there would be so much of the military trying to distract me from my job of soldiering, by focusing on my status as trans, instead of just letting it be.

Everybody seems to think that it's a distraction, when in reality the conversation about whether I'm distracted from my duties is what is distracting.

A:

The Killing of a Chinese Bookie by John Cassavetes is my favorite mob movie of all time


Q:

What is you most Favorite rare fruit to eat?

A:

Do you have a favorite self-care activity that you find affirming? Thank you for your service. I grew up in a military town and worked on a military base for years and I appreciate it! 💜 queer femme


Q:

Hi Michael, what music did you listen to while you were writing this book? Thanks!

A:

Best flavor as I said somewhere else here is the Lukak. But most fun is probably the Kadsura heteroclita. I found one in Laos. It looks like if you took a bunch of baby bananas and shoved them together into a ball. You pull one out and peel it before you eat it. There is another one I had in Mexico called the Pinguin, which is similar but they burn your mouth if you eat too much.


Q:

I like to cook. And honestly, putting on the uniform is affirming.

A:

Lou Reed, Suicide, T Rex, Mott the Hoople, David Bowie, Dion, Patti Smith, John and Yoko, The Smiths,


Q:

Have you had a Gros Michel banana? Did it taste much different? Is it worth seeking out and trying if I really like the taste of bananas?

A:

Who is your favorite Kpop idol? Mine's Momo. This week anyway.


Q:

Who was your favourite guest star to work with on The Sopranos, and why was it Ben Kingsley?

(Sorry, your opinion may differ, but friends and I still look at each other and deliver Sir Ben's "FuuuUuck" semi-regularly.)

A:

Hello! Jared signed off for today BUT our staff actually tried them recently so I thought I'd leave this link here if you're interested :)

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/gros-michel-bananas


Q:

EXO! They're adorable, I can't help it.

A:

Ben was great but my fave was Julianna Marguiles


Q:

As a South Floridian obsessed with mangoes, I’m curious what is your favorite mango variety? And where did you try it?

A:

Will you be in The Sopranos prequel?


Q:

The egg of the sun mango is probably my favorite. The one I bought cost $80 and tasted like the sweetest, juiciest and most flavorful mango in the world. It wasn’t especially unique tasting but the best for typical mango flavor. My favorite mango with a bit more character I found in New Delhi India called the Hamam, it was extremely musky tasting with a flavor unlike anything I’ve had before. A lot of people say the best indian mango is the Alphonso, but the Hamam blows those away as far as I’m concerned.

A:

I doubt it. My character was not even born in the late 60s which is when the movie is supposed to take place.


Q:

How would you rate other fruits compared to say, a coconut, for extra curricular activities?

A:

Hi Michael!

I'm a big fan of Christopher with my favourite scene of his in the series being when he goes to rob and punches Lauren Bacall.

I was just wondering if you had any great set stories during your time filming The Sopranos and what was it like shooting that scene with her.


Q:

I don’t know what you are doing to those poor coconuts. But look up “coco de mer” I think it may be your match made in heaven.

A:

i had met "betty" bacall many years before in Paris on the set of Robert Altman's "Ready to Wear" and was in awe of her every time I was near her. She was a legend, truly and a class act all the way. Punching her difficult for me but a highlight of my career to be sure!


Q:

Hello, Jared! Where have you encountered the weirdest fruit?

A:

Great job as Stu Ungar. What connections did you feel with him?


Q:

The highest concentration of weird fruit I found was in Borneo. There is just so much diversity there. I had Belimbing hutan which look like little chinese lanterns and taste a little like paper. I had ginger fruit that tasted like pickles and cinnamon. I had a giant potato-looking mango that tasted savory and had a sap that causes horrible skin irritation. Every market I went to was just such an eye-opener, even with all the years of fruit hunting, I’d still come across things I never knew existed.

A:

I got to meet a lot of people who knew him in las vegas...people who both loved and hated him...he was an obsessive human being and pursued his interests with lots of passion and intensity...i guess i try to do the same


Q:

Is there something weird from my country, Portugal?

A:

Out of curiosity, when you were growing up, was there a particular movie or TV series that really stood out to you and made you think "I want to do that"? or any actor(s) that really stand out to you as all time greats in your mind?


Q:

I honestly have never been, so I don’t know specifics. But with all the species of fruit out there (something like 80,000 I’ve heard) I’m sure there are some in Portugal that you can’t find elsewhere. Do some googling about native fruits from your country there are probably a bunch that locals don’t even know are there. I’ve been finding that a lot with my finds here in the USA.

A:

Midnight Cowboy and Dog Day Afternoon probably more than any others


Q:

Why fruit?

A:

Huge question and I’m running out of time. But one reason is the collection aspect. There is an incredibly huge variety of fruit out there in the world and every time I look for one thing, I find another 10 that I’ve never heard about. Its inexhaustible and fascinating. I could have tried every regional soda or street food or something, but beyond being bigger than those things, fruit is also straight from the ground. It’s not made in a factory (though there are created varieties too, but that's another story) they are grown out of the damn ground. So I have gotten to learn so much about nature, about the communities that utilize these fruits, the countries they grow in. And beyond all of that fruit is above just an excuse to travel out to places and discover parts of the world I otherwise would not have gone to. It gets me off the beaten path and gives me a mission to create experiences for myself that few other things can do for me in the same way.


Q:

Most under rated fruits in terms of:

Deliciousness

Price

Health benefits

?

A:

It’s amazing to me to go to another country and see an entirely different selection of fruits that are eaten every day and used in cooking. It’s hard to imagine fruit that is so highly valued one place but in my home country most people don’t even know what they are. I have had hundreds of fruits that make me think about how much people back home would love it.

Here are a couple examples though: One of my favorite fruits, the pawpaw (tastes like a tropical pudding) is actually native to the US but outside of a few states few people know about it. Its underrated for taste and price (you can forage them). Another is the mangosteen, they are available in the US at asian supermarkets, and considered to be one of the tastiest fruits in SE asia. For health, there is a number of fruits that would be incredibly beneficial for people with dietary restrictions: Enkala tastes like sour cream and would be a perfect replacement for a vegan. Langsat tastes like grapefruit and would be great for people on medications that have grapefruit as a restricted food. Peanut butter fruit actually tastes like peanuts and would mean a PB&J for kids with peanut allergies… There is a lot.


Q:

Where do you live? When I lived in Queens I used to love combing the markets in Woodside/Flushing/Jamaica for cool looking fruits.

A:

I’m in Elmhurst Queens and absolutely love this boro. With so many communities living in one place, Its the perfect place for me. I can walk 10 min in any direction and find markets with fruit from China, India, South America, SE asia, etc…