Friday, March 12, 2010
Lemme tell you about the party I went to a couple weeks ago. Fun bar, nice people, cheap drinks. The food, though, was a little strange: a vast and colorful mixture of raw kale, piles of strawberries, a tub of sour cream, bottles of hot sauce, jars of pickles, watermelon, and raw garlic cloves. But even stranger than the menu was the fact that the guests, myself included, were piling their plates high, happily stuffing their faces, and exclaiming excitedly as they sucked on slices of limes. Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohollll, you say? Oh no, Jamie. Not this time.
Blame it on the magic berries.
Yes, that's right. At our friend DaveRed's birthday party, I entered the world of Jack and the Beanstalk. Some time ago, the Times published an article about these tiny miracle fruits and the trend they've produced of "Taste-tripping parties". The basic story with these berries is that they alter your sense of taste for anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours, during which sour foods taste remarkably sweet and one generally experiences a major mindf$#@k. Yes, that's a technical term. Since reading about them, DaveRed had been dying to try it and thought his birthday would be the perfect occasion. So, ever the organizer, he ordered a batch of berries from some guy in a faraway magical land, found a bar that wouldn't mind if we took over a few tables, covered them with a random (and slightly revolting) assortment of food which we had been assigned to bring, and then drank the collective kool-aid, so to speak.
jalapenos, I was kind of freaked out about trying this. What if the effects were permanent?! What if I forever lost the joy that comes with a extra sour pickle, a margarita on the rocks? What if the delicate balance of sour/sweet/salty of a good pad thai or papaya salad was forever upset? I'd kill myself, that's what.
I read extensively on the subject and found that while miracle berries are not approved by the FDA, they do contain something called miraculin (no joke) which was at one time sold in pill form as an artificial sweetener. They're also sometimes used by cancer patients undergoing chemo to combat the metallic taste produced by treatment. Armed with this information, a good dose of peer pressure, and a confidence-boosting cocktail, I decided to go for it.
So, you're wondering, how did it taste?
The berry itself was sort of tart and sweet, and we were instructed to suck on it until it mostly dissolved and we could spit out the seed (I never did find out what happens if you eat that part. I suspect something terrible.)
I first realized it had hit me when I took a sip of my vodka soda with lime and found it tasted like someone had splashed it with Sprite. I yelped and grabbed a slice of lime which I stuck in my mouth. It tasted like it had been dipped in sugar--like a very intense limeade. Next I grabbed a grapefruit which was delicious as well--like the ripest, most flavorful citrus with an intense sweetness and none of the bite. I ran around the table, following other people's oohs and ahhs and consuming a slightly dangerous combination of acidic foods only a pregnant woman or a house pet would otherwise consider.
Sour cream: Amazing, like smooth, creamy cheesecake.
Raspberries: Sweeter than normal, like the ripest, most perfect berry.
Sour cream and raspberries: a deadly and delicious combination, eaten unabashedly in heaping spoonfuls by all present.
Broccoli sprinkled with lemon juice: All the deliciousness with none of the woody, raw, bitter or sour flavors
Salt and Vinegar chips: Tasty as always. But since I particularly like the painful sourness and acidity, I found them a bit lacking in edge.
Mustard: Tasted like it had been mixed with honey. But, since the berry doesn't do anything for your sense of smell, it was kind of gross to eat by the spoonful.
Sour pickles: Weird. Just....weird.
Unsweetened Chocolate: Just as disgusting as it was pre-berry.
Kale: All the bright, green, beautiful flavor, without any of the bitterness.
Cherry Tomatoes: What I imagine a tomato would taste like were I to pluck it off the vine in a sun-dappled field in the Italian countryside. Yes, that good.
Lettuce: Tasted like lettuce.
After about an hour and a half, the effects had worn off entirely. Was it fun? Yes! Would I do it again? Sure! Will this be the gateway to a world full of mind-altering hallucinogens? Probably not. About 15 minutes into the trip, I began panicking that the berry was losing its edge, and with a wild, hungry look in my eye, I turned to my friend and said, "I think it's gone! Should I eat another one?? I think I need another one!! SOMEONE GIVE ME ANOTHER ONE!" She pried my hands off her collar and handed me a spoonful of hot sauce. "I think you've had plenty," she said.