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The holidays are finally over. For the last two months you’ve put as much deliciously rich foods and mediocre cookie plates as can fit in your mouth at any one time. Upon returning to work, you’ve discovered that your work slacks are a little tight, and you’re considering eschewing your creative and unique New Year’s resolution in favor of the old “lose 20 lbs” standby, because while cable knitting looks really cool, who has time to make anything big enough to be useful?

No worries, everyone else is feeling it too.

Now that family commitments have been satisfied and friends are finally back from where-do-your-parents-live-again, it’s the perfect time to get everyone together for a party to celebrate the end of the bustling season and the beginning of two miserable months before March even begins to tempt you with hints of Spring. What better way than to flavor trip?

Miraculin is really nothing new to dedicated foodies, who probably read This NYTimes Article last year, or considered purchasing some from ThinkGeek. If you are not a dedicated foodie, or do not read the New York Times, good for you! Here’s a simple breakdown of the deal:

Oh hai thar, miraculin tablets!

Miraculin is a chemical derived from the Miracle Fruit of exotic West Africa. It “tricks your tastebuds into thinking sour and bitter foods are sweet.” I can’t imagine that exact sentence hasn’t been used like, a bajilion times, so I put it in quotes, even though I’m not entirely sure who I’m quoting. The experience lasts 20-40 minutes, during which time lemons taste like sweet lemonade, Tabasco has a chocolatey overtone, and sweets taste the same as ever. It is legal in the United States and most other countries, and is not a drug in the sense that your mind is not affected, just your tastebuds. I’m not sure how Mormons might feel about that, so please speak up if you happen to know. There has been talk of using it as an aid to diabetics, in a fashion similar to Stevia, but the process in the US has been held up by red tape, and I suspect that the lingering after-effect stymies the actual practicality of this idea.

Flavor tripping makes a great alternative to the standard “drink beer until we’re drunk” model of throwing a party, and gives an easy (and relatively inexpensive) focus—each serving costs about a dollar, and citrus fruit should be flooding in from Florida any day now. And it’s good clean fun!

But what makes it especially relevant to this time of year is that diet thing. Instead of feeding guests brownies and cookies,* it’s fruit, and tasty enough sneak a few vitamins into someone’s day. Even after the effects have worn off, the lemons and limes can be used for drink garnish, and don’t be surprised if you see a cohort unpeeling an orange or snacking on carrots later in the night.
*(Okay, you can still make your famous brownies, I understand)

Magic pill.

We had a flavor tripping component to our Halloween party a couple years back, and it went over very well. Everyone agreed that grapefruit are simply HEAVENLY on the stuff, and we sampled various sour beers and all but emptied my condiment shelves. I managed to convince 30 or 40 people to take the pill all at once, waited until it was in everyone’s mouth and announced “Haha, that was acid. Enjoy the light show, ladies and gentlemen!” I would not recommend making this joke around family or children, lest you instantly earn the scarlet letter of drug-addled hippy on the fast-track to self-destruction.

Here is pretty much the only relevant shot I have from that totally righteous party. Featuring myself as Lydia the Tattooed Lady, and Sarita as one hot secret service type.

Tasty lemons

On a completely unrelated side note, even a year out, and I’m still really proud of that costume, even if my entire torso was sticky for the first two weeks of November.

Moving right along, below is a list of items that we found especially interesting under the exotic hypnosis of the Miracle Fruit:

  • Lemons, naturally
  • Limes, and though I usually like sour foods anyway, this is the only time I have ever enjoyed a lime
  • Grapefruit, which tastes like a delicate blend of manna and angel’s breath, with notes of the flutter of a dove’s wings
  • Carrots, sweeter than you think!
  • Tabasco, and be careful not to eat too much because it is very delicious
  • Vinegar, which is a real trip
  • Guiness
  • Sour Beers

There were many other beers being a-sampled, but I only managed to try a couple. Make sure that everyone knows to coat their tongue as the tablet dissolves on it. I let it dissolve in the middle to tip of my tongue, which meant the lemons tasted wonderful until the juice made it down on the sides of my tongue and gave me a rude awakening.

Another warning: be careful if you’re prone to heartburn. While your mouth will be flooded with sweetness, you’re still swallowing a whole lotta citric acid (or vinegar, or spicy foods), so BEWARE.

It worked.

Do tell: have you tried the stuff, or are you of the “oh, I always wanted to try that” camp? What delights did you find in your cupboards?

shameless plug: the dishes pictured are for sale on my Etsy site: Aleta’s Kitschen.


Kalie, who I’m assuming is Mormon, answered a pivotal question I posed:
Mormons love it! We just can’t do the whole sour beers and Guiness thing!


Let’s make a shrimp ceviche today. It’s light and delicious and awesome for a dinner party . . . you can make it the day ahead and serve as an impressive appetizer. I’ll be honest, this was inspired pretty directly by Mezcal Cantina, a prime example of the fine dining that surprises the Worcester visitor who isn’t scared away by gang warfare.

Okay, I exaggerate, but that’s the unfortunate perception.

This recipe has all the good, normal, safe ceviche stuff: cilantro, lime juice, shrimp, hot peppers (in this case, serrano), and red onion. And then there are some extra ingredients that make it extra special: sweet potato, coconut juice (also called coconut water, and definitely NOT coconut milk, which is much thicker), toasted coconut as a garnish, and the big un: TEQUILA! Let’s get all crazy on this ingredient list.

Here we go!

And the one ingredient I couldn’t fit in the same shot as the Patron.


The tequila isn’t alcohol-y, the peppers give just a hint of spice, and the sweet potatoes are so uninterruptive to the flavour as long as they’re cooked enough.

In a true ceviche the raw shrimp is “cooked” by the lime juice. From what I understand, most shrimp is flash-frozen before it’s even off the boat, so this is probably a safe method. Even still, I feel a little weird about it, even though I know the texture is divine. So as a compromise, I lightly steamed them in their shells.


Immediately chill to cease the cooking process.


Now chop the shrimps in thirds. And anally arrange their shells in the background there.


Steep in lime juice in your fridge for about an hour.


Boil the sweet potato (I guess it’s also called a yam?) for 25 minutes, then chop into 1/4 inch cubes.


Strain the coconut chunks out of the coconut juice. I see no reason not to leave it in, but the juice really does the job as far as flavour.


And cilantro and serrano peppers and sweet potato and the coconut juice and of course, a shot of tequila.


Chill that business for an hour as well. In the meantime, toast some coconut.


And oh man, just look at that.


It’s as delicately delicious as it looks. Promise.

Coconut Sweet Potato TEQUILA Shrimp Ceviche
inspired by Mezcal Cantina, Worcester, MA

1 lb thawed raw shrimp, tails on
about 10 oz lime juice
1/2 sweet potato
1 small red onion, chopped finely and rinsed
2/3 c chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish if desired
2 Serrano chiles
1 can coconut water (also called coconut juice, and again: do not use coconut milk)
1 shot tequila of your choice . . . and Patron is CHOICE!
1/4 c coconut, toasted

First, boil a pot of water, drop in a scrubbed sweet potato and let boil for 25 minutes. When it’s done, let it sit in a strainer for a little while to cool off.

A note on the shrimp: if you don’t care the difference, feel free to use thawed, pre-cooked shrimp. But I would assume you’re only doing that because you’ve never cooked raw shrimp yourself and therefore don’t know that it is about a thousand times better. Here’s how to do that:

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Drop the shrimp, leave it in there for about two minutes, then skew the lid and drain the pot, leaving the shrimp inside. Let steam in that manner for 8-10 minutes, depending on how nervous raw shrimp makes you. Pour shrimp into a shallow dish and litter the dish with ice cubes to stop the steaming. Once cool, shell and chop into thirds. Put the shrimp in a bowl and cover with lime juice. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour.


Finely chop the red onion, then rinse in a strainer; this seems to keep the flavour milder. Roughly chop 2/3 c cilantro. Cube half of the sweet potato into 1/4″ cubes, discarding any cubes that still have a crunch to them. Slice the serrano chiles in half, but don’t chop them up . . . they’re just lending flavour to the juice, we’re not putting these in our mouth.

Strain the coconut water into a bowl, add the tequila, stir, and then add the onions, cilantro, sweet potato and chiles. Stir to mix, then fridge it for an hour.

While you’re waiting the practically unbearable hour for all that stuff to mingle, clean your kitchen and toast the coconut. Sprinkle the flakes on a cookie sheet and place in a 300o oven for 5-10 minutes. They’ll look pretty browned, but you really just want to make sure they don’t outright burn. See the picture, this coconut was perfect.

Strain the shrimp, reserving about 1/4 c lime juice. Throw the shrimp and the reserved juice in with the onion/cilantro mixture.

If you’re really looking to impress, serve in a margarita glass. If you’re like me, who drinks iced margaritas out of pint glasses, serve in one of your three martini glasses.

Either way, sprinkle with the toasted coconut, garnish with with some extra cilantro, and serve.