When life gives you lemons, get miracle fruit

by Kristin on January 25, 2010

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by James Bowe

Jason and I went to a party over the weekend where they served limes, lemons, and whole fresh cranberries for dessert.

Our hosts were not as cruel as they sound, though, because first they gave us concentrated miracle fruit tablets.

Miracle fruit, as this New York Times article describes, “…rewires the way the palate perceives sour flavors for an hour or so, rendering lemons as sweet as candy….The cause of the reaction is a protein called miraculin, which binds with the taste buds and acts as a sweetness inducer when it comes in contact with acids….”

OK, whatever. We dove in. After the tablets had dissolved on our tongues, we all stood around the dining room table sampling foods we thought we knew and understood—many of which we wouldn’t typically enjoy eating straight at all, let alone for dessert. Lemon and lime wedges tasted as sweet as citrus sorbet. Whole fresh cranberries tasted like they do after we add cups of sugar to make a sauce at Thanksgiving. Eating wedges of fresh tomatillo were like eating the ripest, sweetest plum.

Then we moved on to more bizarre experiments: Salt and vinegar potato chips. Sips of vinegar, espresso, and dry red wine. Wasabi peas. Everything was altered. The straight Tobasco sauce was probably the most taste-blowing experience—there was nothing hot or piquant about the taste, but the burning sensation on my tongue was still very much there.

Mind over matter is harder than it seems

Ultimately, the experience was just a whole lot of fun. How often do we get to try something completely new? As a writer, though, I had to go and ponder the broader connections and life metaphors. I am not scientifically minded, and to be honest, the “how” and “why” of what was happening on my tongue did not intrigue me.

But the disconnect that was happening in my mind was SO fascinating. Every time I put something different in my mouth, I was surprised. Even after I had experienced the altered taste effect several times, and I prepped myself mentally for how this next flavor would probably come across, it messed with my mind. Practicing mind over matter just didn’t seem to be an option, no matter how hard I tried.

Here it is: The miracle fruit metaphor

It made me realize how set in our ways we become—how easy it is to slide into auto pilot and think we know what’s happening around us, and how we will experience it and react. We are so sure we know how something or someone will impact us, that we don’t allow ourselves to remain open to the unexpected and new.

In a way, that’s how stereotypes work, right? We look at someone and think “Oh, I know your type. I’ve met several like you before.” Then we predetermine how that person will “taste” (so to speak) and how our senses will react, before we’ve even made any real contact. I see a lemon, I already know how that lemon will taste, and I brace myself against it before I consider the unexpected miracle that might be at play.

And let’s face it: A lot of people and experiences come across as lemons. Now if we can only figure out a way to rewire how our palettes perceive the world.

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  • http://themoderngal.blogspot.com The Modern Gal

    I’ve never heard of those, but I’m facinated now. I love that you got a metaphor out of it (and love your post title too!)

  • Cheryl

    Well, my motto is, if life hands you Lehmans, you become a Lehman aid. ;)

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com/ Kristin T.

    The Modern Gal, the whole experience ended up being much more fascinating than I expected. I knew it would be a cool, different experience, but I didn’t expect it to be so thought-provoking.

    Cheryl, we are happy to have Lehmans in our midst. None of you seems a bit sour!

  • suzi w.

    mind bending. I might have to print this post out. Thanks!

  • Trina

    WOW, what an experience, I almost missed this, but glad I joined the party. Oh Kristin, you silly.. how can you say you didnt expect the experience to be so thought provoking? I jest, perhaps you didnt expect it but you mustn”t be surprised :-) You bend my mind with how you think about things. Boy, oh boy, can we ever face new things with a frame work of what we expect…wonder what we miss somtimes?
    Now, off to find where one can get such tablets…