After watching Dara O'Briain on BBC's Tomorrow's Food, I was reminded of something I'd seen a few months ago and fancied trying out.
It wasn't the "electronic taste simulator" (which looked like nothing more than an Arduino Mini and a metal plate)
It was the article about "Miracle Berries" - those funny little red things that make sour things taste sweet. I first heard about them on Radio 4 (where else) about 9 months ago, and thought "they sound fun". And then forgot all about them. Then they appeared on the telly a few months later, and thought "I wonder where you could get those from?" and promptly forgot about them.
Then, after seeing the programme on BBC, and in a fit of spontaneity, I ordered some miracle berry tablets off the interwebs.
Despite what the various special offers in my email inbox say, it's the first time I've bought any tablets of any colour, red, blue or otherwise, off the 'net. And it is a bit risky - not just from a financial point of view (ten quid for ten little tablets is a gamble in itself) but also from a safety point of view - who knows what is actually in these things??
But curiosity got the better of me, so I bought some and they arrived today.
With some trepidation, I tried one of the little red pellets. The basic idea is not to gulp them down like paracetamol, but to let them dissolve and coat your tongue with the slimy red goop.
Nick also gave one a try (after all, if it was going to make me poorly, I didn't want to be the only one suffering stomach cramps and vomiting!) and together, and with some hesitation, we tried some of the sourest, most acidic things we had in the house.
Amazingly, the little berries actually worked!
Maybe it's because ours were in tablet form, rather than freeze-dried berry form (the berries themselves perish very quickly and can only be bought "fresh" if delivered in dry ice - an extra expense we deemed unnecessary just to try out something so frivolous on a whim) but the sweetening effect had a bit of an after-taste to it.
The sweetness was almost like an artificial sweetener - like putting too much Stevia, or Canderel (other artificial sweeteners are available) on already sweet food (like perhaps breakfast cereal). But the effect was amazing!
You can eat fresh limes like you would tangerines. You can bite lumps out of lemons, like you would an apple (apart from the skin is a lot tougher of course!). Normally sharp oranges taste really smooth and sweet (but normally sweet tangerines tasted a bit artificial and sickly!)
On super-sharp fruit, like lemons and limes, the effect is most pronounced, but also most peculiar - you can still tell you're tasting something "sharp" - it's more like a tartness than a sourness. But there's none of the screw-up-your-face nastiness that usually accompanies sour acid tastes.
Balsamic vinegar tastes amazing - almost like cherries. Cider vinegar tastes like slightly-tart apple juice. Carrots - never my favourite vegetable - taste sweet, instead of slightly soapy. Cheese however, just tastes weird.
The effects of the tablets last about 30 minutes. After this time, lemons are still edible, but taste a little sour. After 45 minutes, just about everything we'd tasted - deliberately under-ripe fruit and supermarket-flavourless veg - was unbearable in anything but the tiniest amounts.
Miracle Berries are ace. And (unlike a few of the last ideas listed on this blog) they work!