Flavor Tripping

Flavor tripping is a process of altering tasting experience and perception. Imagine having fresh lemon juice or vinegar shots, not that I suggest the last one, and they taste like lemonade or raspberry vinegarette. It works well with high acidity food or drinks, similar to the color-changing technique, but instead of color change, we have taste transformation. Whether we enjoy the flavor-changing food experience, or any modernist cuisine/drinks, it will depend on how we see and perceive the purpose of eating and drinking. We think of ourselves as sophisticated and evolved human beings. Still, we look at food and drinks only as a necessity for our physical survival, unless there is a food shortage, then, in reality. We are not more than different from our cavemen predecessors.

In late 1825 a French lawyer and politician, Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, published a brilliant book, The Physiology of Taste, where he shared his view through culinary recipes, anecdotes, and personal reflections of the importance of gastronomy to our well being. Specifically the influence of taste on our psychology, ways of thinking, and behavior. What we eat or drink can make us happy, depressed and influence how we do things, and taste is essential to our psychological existence.

He had many famous quotes, and a couple of them highlighted his ideas about food and drinks.

The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star.”

 Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy

Alcohol carries the pleasures of the palate to their highest degree.”

Brillat Savarin

Flavor tripping is just one part of this experience, so let’s see what causes this change of taste. There is a plant called the miracle berry (Synsepalum dulcificum), a small red fruit containing a glycoprotein (Miraculin). This protein coats the sour taste buds and temporarily alters their shape, which leads the taste receptors to perceive the sour taste as far sweeter.

Miracle berry
By Hamale Lyman – Public Domain

The miracle berry is native to Western Africa and has long been used by the people there to improve sour food taste and be a sweetener to drinks.

According to WebMD, “People take miracle fruit to treat diabetes and correct chemotherapy-related taste disturbances. In foods, miracle fruit is used as a low-calorie sugar-free sweetener.” It has the great potential of replacing all artificial sweeteners with something of natural origin.

Growing these berries at home or buying them is not easy or cheap, but companies out there sell sweeteners in the form of tablets.

Miracle Fruit Tablets cause sour and bitter foods and drinks to taste sweet, and you need only one pill to change your taste perception, which can last between 30 min to 2 hours. If you cut the pill and use only half of it, it might be a better idea to create the same but shorter-lasting effect. Not all people will have the same experience, though, and I believe the reason for that might have something to do with the people’s taste buds. Generally, people can be divided into three groups; Supertasters, Tasters, and Non-tasters. The difference among them is in the amount of the taste buds or their sensitivity, causing the different reactions to the same stimuli.

So how do you do flavor tripping tasting or menu at your place or restaurant? The answer is simple; “Don’t start with the flavor tripping experience,” leave it towards the end of the dinner or party, and the reason for that is everything you taste after that will taste sweet. Chef Cantu, from Chicago, was a great admirer of these berries, and in his iNG restaurant, he had a tasting menu dedicated to this kind of testing experience. He started the diner with the regular menu, and halfway through; he gave everyone one of that miraculous berry pills. The same menu was served again, but this time, it tasted different, and it was surprisingly confusing.

According to different testers’ reviews, the best experience was with acidic fruits. For example, lemons and limes taste like lemonade, don’t have a lot of them as the lemon is still lemon.

The most suitable drinks for the flavor tripping experience are from the Sour drink family, but actually, any cocktail with higher acidity will work, Daiquiri, Caipirinha, Margarita, etc. For instance, the recipe for Daiquiri consists of rum, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup. Make one of them without the simple syrup, just rum and lemon juice and have people try it, then give them the berry tablet and ask them to try it again.

Of course, this is just a small example of flavor tripping. Still, the idea behind it and the result are all the same. Not knowing what to expect, seeing the people’s surprise, the enjoyment they have, and the general appreciation of your efforts and skills will make it worthwhile.

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