It’s called miracle fruit, and it seems like something out of Brave New World. It’s not an item engineered by modern science, though, but an African berry that’s been known to Westerners since the 18th century.
Recently it’s become the sensation (literally) at parties where guests pop one in the mouth and then revel in the fact that such low-cal, ordinarily sour foods as citrus wedges, Brussels sprouts, mustard, vinegars, and pickles eaten within an hour or so afterwards become overwhelmingly sweet.
The berry is a dieter’s dream, although it’s very expensive at two dollars or more a pop. And just imagine what it can do for diabetics.
I wonder, though. If it’s anything like my experience with artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, it just doesn’t taste the same as the real thing. There’s something cloying and artificial about sugar substitutes. What’s more, apparently there’s evidence they don’t help a diet but actually hurt it, somehow increasing the desire for other food and leading to weight gain rather than loss:
…[A]nimals are similarly trained to anticipate lots of calories when they taste something sweet—in nature, sweet foods are usually loaded with calories. When an animal eats a saccharin-flavored food with no calories, however—disrupting the sweetness and calorie link—the animal tends to eat more and gain more weight, the new study shows.
And watch out for eating the berry and then drinking wine; it tends to make it all taste like Manischewitz. And eating it and then eating candy is too much of a good thing.
Regrettably, I suspect there’s no free lunch after all.
But the people attending these parties are having quite the time anyway, a real feeding frenzy. Watch out; as Franz Aliquo, a lawyer who hosts some of the festivities, says (shades of La Grande Bouffe, minus Marcello Mastroianni):
“You kept hearing ‘oh, oh, oh,’ ” he said, and then the guests became “literally like wild animals, tearing apart everything on the table.”
“It was like no holds barred in terms of what people would try to eat, so they opened my fridge and started downing Tabasco and maple syrup,” he said.
Not together, I hope.