Miraculin Mystery Tour!

Last year I saw an headline in the New York Times that read “A Tiny Fruit that Tricks the Tongue.” For some reason I read further, and learned that on the East Coast it has become popular to suck on the fruit of the shrub Synsepalum dulcificum, aka “miracle berry,” which contains the protein miraculin and alters your perception of sourness for about half an hour. During that half hour you snack on radishes, mustard, Tabasco, lemons, pickles, and other foods not normally eaten solo or straight. “Ho freaking hum,” I complained. “Those blood orangepeople in New York have only just found out about the weird West African fruit that acts like a psychedelic drug? I thought New Yorkers were supposed to be hip.” Personally, I’ve eaten miracle berries all my life. During my childhood running wild in the Sahara desert, for example, I used to graze on Synsepalum dulcificum bushes like a starving okapi. Then, in my fad diet phase, I sucked miracle berries before every meal of shredded cabbage and nettles simply to satisfy my intense cravings for sugar (you’d never know it to look at me now, but I used to weigh 166 pounds, a far cry from my trim 164 I am today). Miracle berries are old news.

However, as I learned whenever I happened to mention this article to everyone I saw, most people have not heard about miracle berries. They took my casual assertions as fabrications. Then they wanted to know if the berries actually were a psychedelic drug. “Not even,” I said sadly. “They simply contain a glycoprotein molecule with some trailing carbohydrate chains that temporarily binds to the sweetness receptors on your tongue, distorting their shape so they become triggered by acids. I thought everyone knew that.”

Representin' the West Coast

Representin' the West Coast

Eventually I grew so tired of this pandemic of ignorance that I decided to hold a miracle berry tasting party (known in the East as a ‘flavour tripping’ party). design iphone 8 case I then forgot about it for a year. Then last week I held one.

My guests to the party included my wife Leslie, and two of my co-workers, Skot and Will. We are all baristas for a high end coffee roastery and consider ourselves experts on detecting subtle nuances of flavour. I handed out miracle berry tablets (fresh berries – the berries have to be fresh – are hard to find and expensive, and everything I read about the tablets said they worked exactly the same, so I went with the tablets) which we popped on our tongues, giggling as if we were having our first acid experience. After a minute of rolling the tablets around in our mouths, we were ready to be weirded out. And weirded out we were. Here is what we tried:

Guinness: actually saddening that it no longer tasted like Guinness. harry potter silicone iphone 6 case It tasted more like chocolate milk. I am still sad that I wasted a Guinness.

A decent Australian Shiraz: bland, with none of the tang that makes red wine so enjoyable. Again, I realised that it is not wise to test miracle berries on foods you actually enjoy eating or drinking.

Sweet is not always good

Sweeter is not always better

Blood orange: unbelievably, absurdly sweet. Could not manage a single slice. It reminded me of the time I dissolved sixteen packets of splenda in a single espresso shot.

A two year old cheddar: quite lovely, but suddenly resembled a soft ripe cheese, like Brie, or possibly Laughing Cow.

Lemons: a hit. I wish I could find true lemons, but all supermarkets carry any more is Meyer lemons (thanks a lot, Martha Stewart), which are a hybrid between a lemon and a mandarin orange, and my local farmer’s market only carries local produce (duh) which does not, in the Pacific Northwest, include lemons. Man, were they tasty. We just sucked on the slices and nibbled the rinds.

Habañero pepper sauce: a warning here. Just because you can’t taste sourness doesn’t mean habañeros are suddenly benign. We all took little sips of it, and instantly developed compulsive hiccups. Then my mouth and tongue burned and it was hard to taste anything else. Be careful.

Lemons were a hit

Lemons were a hit

Radishes: kind of like water chestnuts.

Sauerkraut: kind of like soggy shredded cabbage.

Candy: I bought lemon heads and sour apples, but in the end we didn’t even try them: after the blood oranges, they were too intimidating. Anyway, maybe nothing would have happened, as candy is always more sweet than sour. iphone 6 case with hand grip And what’s the point in changing something artificially sour into something artificially sweet?

Inglehoffer stone ground mustard: like Inglehoffer stone ground mustard, but sweet. Pleasant, but no longer my favorite brand of mustard.

Tim’s Salt and Vinegar Kettle chips: sweet chips. man utd iphone 8 cases Easy to eat, which is amazing, because I detest Tim’s Salt and Vinegar Kettle chips. I like challenging food, but I don’t think food should make your mouth bleed.

Maybe we were tripping. I could have sworn there didn't used to be a dog in that cupboard

Maybe we were tripping. I could have sworn there didn't used to be a dog in that cupboard

Apple Cider Vinegar: rather delicious, sweet as cider but tangier. Careful how much you drink, because your stomach can still tell the difference.

All in all, I recommend flavour tripping as a novel thing to do with some curious friends (just like so many other of life’s memorable experiences). gear4 case iphone 8 But as a gourmet, or a gourmand, I cannot recommend it. The experience was literally negative: we hadn’t gained a new sense, we’d lost an old one. Sourness is crucial to a balanced palette and it does not improve life to be deprived of it. And rather like LSD, miracle berries are most fun during the first part, after which you spend ages waiting for normality to return. The best way to do this, we discovered, was to pour large glasses of Shiraz and sip from them periodically, noting the return of the sour flavour notes. In half an hour, I was tipsy.

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