Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flavour Tripping

Miracle berries.If you have not already heard of a fruit called the miracle berry, this post is going to sound insane.

I'll start at the beginning.

There is a fruit called the miracle berry. It is indigenous to west Africa. After you eat this berry, for a period ranging from thirty minutes to two hours sour food tastes sweet. It’s weird.

Miracle berries are most commonly dried and sold in tablet form. There are countless dieters and diabetics who like to sweeten their food without the added calories or insulin spike. Lisa’s sister Tara, on the other hand, recently ordered a package of these tablets (10 pills for about $15) to host a "flavour tripping party". That means that we ate the tablets and then tasted a bunch of random foods.

When Lisa and I arrived, Tara's table was set with citrus fruits, crackers, goat cheese, mustard, yoghurt, cider vinegar, wine, Guinness, sour soothers, Tobasco sauce, and unsweetened lemon meringue and rhubarb pies.

To administer the miracle berry tablets, place one on your
tongue. Don't chew it, let it melt, exposing as much of your tongue to the pill as possible. It takes a couple minutes to dissolve. This is not a mind-altering drug: there is a molecule in the tab that binds to your tongue and changes your perception of taste. It's perfectly legal, but when you're sitting in a circle, waiting for a pill to dissolve on your tongue, and someone asks, "How long does it take to kick in?" it certainly feels like you're dropping hallucinogens. You're not.

The concept is so unbelievable that even after I had taken one tablet, it crossed my mind briefly that this was a hoax—a practical joke aimed at getting me to drink a bottle of vinegar. I shook my paranoia and bit into a lemon. Sure enough it tasted like lemonade. I proceeded to sample everything on the table.

The most successful experiments were the citrus fruits and the yogurt, which, with its tanginess converted to a mild sweetness, resembled a fine panna cotta. The pies were good, too. The rhubarb was so potent that some of its tartness "broke through" the miracle berry and made for a perfect balance of sweet and sour.

The least successful items were the sour soothers and the wine. The chief enjoyment of these foods comes from their tartness, without which they are simply sweet and (alcoholic content notwithstanding) boring.

The cider vinegar almost worked, but it tended to overwhelm the effects of the miracle berry, remaining uncomfortably sour.

Goat cheese tasted like sweetened cream cheese. Guinness tasted a bit like a milk shake, only with the beer's characteristic roasted flavour.

Though you can barely taste acid, you are still vulnerable to the other effects of the sour food you are eating. After consuming two whole lemons my tongue was acid-burnt and my stomach ached. I suspect that this is how most flavour tripping parties end: people start realizing that they just consumed tablespoons of vinegar and hot sauce and start to feel sick. Then it's a bit like drinking hard liquor: the hangover makes you forget the rush of excitement you felt during the first few drinks. Don't misunderstand me - I enjoyed flavour tripping, but right now I don't feel the need to ever do it again.

Maybe it mimics alcohol in that regard, too. Maybe next weekend I'll be back on the berries.

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