One of the most unusual parts of New Mexico's Carlsbad Caverns is actually man-made. It's a lunch counter, built on a poured concrete floor 750 feet (229 meters) underground in the cave's Big Room. Constructed in 1928 and staffed by the Cavern Supply Company, this subterranean eatery served hungry hikers who made the grueling, six-hour journey from the surface to the cave below. With installation of elevators in 1932, however, the lunch counter became less necessary. Now, as a result of environmental concerns first voiced in the 1980s, the lunch counter serves as more of a gift shop and snack bar than a full-blown restaurant [source: Harden, NPS, Rothman].
Pop a little berry into your mouth and, like magic, your perception of the world begins to change. Everything you thought you knew about food is turned upside down as things that once made you pucker now tickle your taste buds like candy. Sound like some kind of psychedelic drug trip? Well, it's not. It's called "flavor tripping," an experiment in taste that begins when you coat your tongue with the flesh of the perfectly safe and legal miracle fruit.
Native to West Africa, the miracle fruit is a tiny red berry with a peculiar side effect: It makes sour things taste sweet. This reaction results when a protein known as miraculin binds with the taste buds and gives the perception of sweetness when it comes in contact with acids. Though it doesn't happen to everyone, those who do experience the phenomenon may taste apple juice when drinking vinegar, doughnut glaze when sampling Tabasco sauce, and cheesecake when chewing on goat cheese. And what about foods that are already sugary? It makes them ultra sweet, sometimes to the point that they're inedible.
While there are no health concerns associated with miracle fruit, it can inflict some pain on your wallet. Just one berry may cost upward of $2. The good news? Just one berry will keep you flavor tripping for about an hour.