We shuffled excitedly down the stairs towards the bottom floor of Drama House. The individual in charge tallied up who had paid and who hadn’t. When we reached the kitchen, he distributed the small, round tablets to the 10 people participating in this sensation-warping adventure.
We counted down from 10 and then placed the pink tabs on our tongues. As the mysterious substance dissolved on our tongues, we anxiously waited to begin our mystical adventure into uncharted sensory pleasures.
OK, I don’t know what you were thinking, but I in no way mean to imply that any illegal substances were being consumed during this extravaganza. We were ingesting “Miracle Berry” tablets, which offer a chemical that binds to the taste buds and alter the perception of bitter and sour flavors to make them sweet. In fact, the chemical we consumed, called (I kid you not) miraculin, is FDA approved.
The tablets we used were ordered via eBay and cost about $15 for 10 of them. They were essentially concentrated miraculin, extracted from the Synsepalum dulcificum plant which originates in West Africa. The usage directions were fairly simple: All you have to do is place them on your tongue until they dissolve, wait about five minutes and then eat anything and everything you can.
Since the aforementioned event was a party — more specifically, “A ‘Miracle Berry’ Miracle Birthday Party” for yours truly — there were a multitude of goodies to tantalize taste buds, including lemons, limes, grapefruit, onions, garlic, hot sauce, peanut butter, white vinegar, jalapenos, bananas, tuna fish and coffee grounds.
I started out with the safer foods first. The grapefruit tasted wonderful, like a highly sugared version of its original self. The lemons were even better and tasted precisely like lemonade. The bananas, lemons and limes were presented with the peel still attached, which I ate without a problem. The usual bitterness you come to expect from this part of the plant was completely gone.
Peanut butter didn’t taste any different along with the onions and garlic, the latter of which I would not recommend. The sriracha hot sauce tasted like ground-up sun dried tomatoes, thick and sweet, but still retained its characteristic heat. The canned tuna fish, on the other hand, was indescribably strange and ultimately fairly disgusting.
The climax of this edible circus was the white vinegar, which was recommended to us by benevolent strangers via the Internet. We bought the cheapest, strongest variety we could find. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to taste like it did. It essentially tasted like a slightly watered down and flat version of Sprite. It was incredibly tasty and weird.
The oddest part of the whole experience was that, unsurprisingly, miraculin only changes the tastes of foods and leaves one’s sense of smell untouched. The result was that I ingested something that tasted like sugared water but still had the pungent and biting odor of vinegar as I swallowed.
Anyone who has ever had a cold that resulted in blocked nasal passages and lamented the dull flavor of his or her mom’s delectable chicken noodle soup will understand how great a part smell has in the overall taste of foods. Essentially, the experience of smelling one thing and tasting another is a wholly new experience for me that would never had occurred without “Miracle Berries.”
I was told by individuals who were well above the legal drinking age who had responsibly consumed alcohol alongside “Miracle Berries” that the bitterness in certain beverages such as beer was cut significantly, and that Guinness tasted like “Guinness mixed with vanilla ice-cream.” According to these sources, though, the tablets did not change the taste of most beverages too much aside from slightly sweetening them.
It is also worth noting that the “Miracle Berries” did not work equally for everyone in the group. For about four out of the 10 in our group the berries’ effect was significantly less strong, only slightly altering taste, and for one member it did not work at all. Fortunately for me the tablets totally altered my taste perception, to the extent that it became slightly irritating.
After I had sampled all of the different types of foods that had been laid out for us, I realized I was still hungry and reached for some leftover Indian food that was waiting for me in the fridge. I half forgot that the “Miracle Berry” was in full effect and took a bite, which turned out to be incredibly off-putting. After about 10 more minutes of trying to wash out my mouth with water it wore off, lasting for a grand total of about 25 minutes.
Next time, I think it would be worth it to buy enough tablets so that everyone participating could have two at a time to make sure that everyone is able to experience its effects. Ultimately, my “‘Miracle Berry’ Miracle Birthday” was a very tasty, if not incredibly bizarre experience which I am planning on repeating. I recommend hosting your own party — it will open your mindddddd.
Ford is a member of
the class of 2013.