Flavortripping: Part 2

by Danielle Sobol
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miracle-berry-fruit.jpgLast summer, New York City rooftops teemed with people sucking on lemons and downing shots of vinegar. For about a month, in its characteristic tendency towards cult like obsession, everyone was talking about the magic berries that made all things acidic and sour taste sweet, and about the ‘flavortripping’ parties where people experimented with them. I, however, was in East Africa all summer on a strict diet of rice and beans sans utensils, and I missed the craze.

Somehow, it seems like Angelinos never got the Magic Berry memo. I was thrilled to find that upon my West Coast relocation I was in the company of people who had not yet ‘flavortripped’. When I learned that a friend of mine had twenty berries chilling in his freezer just WAITING for a throng of curious flavortrippers, I begged to be included. Last Sunday it finally happened. With a tub of olives from the Whole Foods olive bar, I walked into a room of energized people and bowls of lemons, grapefruit, limes, tomatoes, carrots, bok choy, cheeses, jalapeños, radish, and asparagus.  The liquids selection was even more obscure, with red and white wines, tequilas, vinegars, hot sauces, and beer.

We ate our berries ceremoniously and nervously. One is meant to remove the peel in his or her mouth and suck the pulp off of the berry before spitting out the pit. Everyone was silent during the process. Then the host passed around a bowl of lemons and waves of “mmmmm!” swept the circle. Yes, the lemons tasted like the sweetest lemonade you’ve ever had.

flavortrip2.jpgNext, I went strait for the vinegar. It tasted like syrup. The hot sauce did too. The Jose Cuervo tasted like water and the Guiness had no bite at all.  Then came the tomatoes. The cherry tomatoes were unbearably sweet. Even the thought of eating a second sugary sugary tomato was, and still is, enough to invoke a brief episode of nausea.

After that, all of the other foods were generally anticlimactic. The tastes of the vegetables were no different. The cheeses, which were rumored to taste like vanilla frosting, definitely did not, and the olives tasted like olives.  After fifteen minutes of shoveling unrelated foods into my mouth, I fell on the couch and sucked on a lime that tasted like candy until, about 10 minutes later, everyone else got bored as well.

I left the flavortripping party with a stomachache, an irrational fear of tomatoes, and a fleeting sense of accomplishment at having experienced something so unique. I’m glad that I went – I had had a thrilling fifteen minutes – but I definitely never need to eat a magic berry ever again. I even forgive the isle of Manhattan for dropping the craze so fast.

Anyway, it is an interesting way to spend an afternoon. The berries originated somewhere in West Africa, are completely legal, and must be ordered frozen online due to some kind of sugar lobby backed trade law. Now most interested parties get their berries from a man somewhere in Florida who has fashioned himself the ‘Miracle Fruit Man’. (www.miraclefruitman.com.) My advice: stick to citruses, acids, and foul tasting tequilas for a successful flavortrip.


Danielle Sobol has done international public health and youth advocacy work in countries such as Zanzibar, Israel, and Haiti. She currently lives in LA and needs a job. Any offers?

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