miracle fruit party!

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After a few straight years of celebrating my birthday with vegetarian dim sum in New York, I did something a little different this year (chiefly because I wasn’t in New York): put together a little flavor-tripping party here at my house.

I’d been wanting to try miracle fruit for a while (Wikipedia entry here, New York Times article here); at a friend’s suggestion, I bought a little box of dried miracle-fruit tablets off eBay back in August, and hauled them with me to Burning Man, although I didn’t get to use them out there. So I gathered a few friends, set out a spread of strongly flavored foods, and (after a ceremonial amuse-bouche of vanilla salt), we each let a tablet dissolve on our tongue.

The effect of miracle fruit is that sour and bitter things taste sweet—or, rather, sour and bitter tastes are dramatically muted, but sweet tastes aren’t. (“Dramatically” is relative, and I think I was less strongly affected by it than other people at the party, although still strongly enough that I was happily eating big chunks of lemon and lime.) Things that are already sweet and not much else aren’t affected—I had wondered if the line “bananas were just bananas” from the Times piece meant “bananas were only bananas” or “bananas were totally crazy,” and it was the former. But citrus, especially sour citrus, was very different and extra-delicious. (I wish we’d had some rhubarb. Next time.) Other things, like radishes, artichokes and Brussels sprouts, had their taste changed more subtly. Fava beans were almost flavorless; sour pickles tasted like mild sweet pickles. Black coffee was gentler than cafĂ© au lait normally is, and had a nifty aftertaste/aroma. Tabasco, straight up, was like mild barbecue sauce. Some things tasted different after we’d had a few bites of them. The consensus favorite, I think, was balsamic vinegar, of which we drank tiny little shots—it was gentle and aromatic on the tongue, then burned going down the throat.

After about an hour, some of us noticed the effect starting to wear off, but by then we were all stuffed anyway, and retired to the living room. I could barely eat anything later on—I’d eaten a lot of acidic fruit.

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This page contains a single entry by Douglas published on January 5, 2009 11:00 AM.

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