When something is published in The New York Times, it’s safe to assume its legitimacy. But when 20 so-called “Miracle Fruit” arrived in my mailbox two weeks ago, the Times article seemed more like a nutty fairytale. Not only were the berries shriveled and dried from their travels, but their packaging consisted of a Ziploc bag and a small media mail envelope addressed in chicken-scratch handwriting. My housemates and I shook our heads. There goes $65, we all thought to ourselves.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Miracle Fruit concept, this past May NY Times reporter Joe Fornabaio visited a so-called “flavor-tripping party,” where a mysterious and berry-like fruit that essentially numbs your bitter taste buds was able to transform foods like radicchio and grapefruit into deliciously sweet treats for the tongue. At $2-$2.50 a pop — not to mention ridiculous shipping charges — one of my roommates decided to throw her own trippy tasting at our apartment. With only 20 berries available, our guest list was very exclusive: only audacious eaters allowed.
We gathered nervously in a circle at our Pine Street apartment, holding the tiny wrinkled fruit between our fingers, staring at the smorgasbord of strange, bad-tasting food in front of us. After swirling the pulp around our mouths for almost a minute, one of the guests grabbed his Guinness off the table to see if it really did work. Taking a swig, he shook his head. “Tastes the same to me,” he said. Our hearts sinking, several people grabbed a couple slices of grapefruit to give the berry another chance. “Holy shit!” was heard all around. “Did you put sugar on this?” Our guests swarmed the table of food. “You have to try the limes! It’s like the best margarita I’ve ever had!”
The feeding frenzy had begun. For nearly half an hour guests sampled everything from Frank’s RedHot to unsweetened chocolate, from goat cheese to tequila. People began sipping vinegar by the glass and eating mustard by the spoonful. Vegetables like green pepper and tomato tasted riper than ever and dark, bitter beers were reminiscent of soda pop. The strawberries shocked us with their sweetness and the goat cheese lacked its usual sour kick.
Though cries of glee were heard all around, not everything was pleasing, and not everyone was pleased. “I just want my beer to taste like beer!” one guest grumbled. The unsweetened chocolate proved the berry only blocks taste buds; it doesn’t create them. I myself began craving the savory more than ever before… even the salt and vinegar potato chips left a syrupy aftertaste. I started to feel like an 8-year-old on Halloween — after a short while, sugar starts to drive you a little crazy.
Thankfully, the effect wore off relatively quickly; after 40 minutes or so, guests began cringing again at the taste of radicchio and leaving their half-full stout beers on the table. Desperate for balance on my palate, I booked it to Allegro and made sure to sprinkle garlic salt on the cheesy slice before me. “That was awesome,” my dining companion said, enjoying the return to normalcy, “I just don’t wanna do it ever again.”