Miracle Fruit

“What are you so excited about?”, said the tall man in a white apron.

The skinny, well-groomed, smiling young lad he was talking to replied, “It's my first day in my first restaurant.”

“Really?” the man continued, with a bit of a smirk. “This'll be the longest first day you'll ever have, then. Go get dressed and help Parminder at the frying station, the lunch rush is coming in.”

Maniam wasn't joking. The lunch rush came hard and fast. After working his hands to the bone, Meor, the new guy, had a new appreciation and respect for the cooking staff and waiters and everyone who had to burn calories like mad so other people can get fat.

Aside from a few spills here and there, the lunch hours went by without a hitch. Meor was still getting used to cooking in an assembly line style. His days of studying culinary arts has always left him room to plan things out and cook in a much more methodical way. Dinner hours came, and the place became much more hectic than before.

Things went less smoothly for Meor this time. They started to run out of salmon and Anand, the dessert guy, had to go get some fresh ones. For the rest of the team, switching between stations on the fly while still keeping their heads are second nature. This, of course, disoriented Meor greatly. In a effort to fit in, he took over Anand's station. An encounter with the head chef while he was working there reminded him how green he was.

“You. What are you making?” he barked.

“Meringue, sir,” Meor replied, almost stammering.

“And how do you make meringues?” he interrogated.

“You whisk the eggs--”

“You whisk the eggs. Is that what you've been doing?”

“Yes, chef, I--”

“No you weren't.”

The wrinkled old lion grabbed at the bowl Meor was holding and held up the whisk to his face.

“Do you see this runny, sludgy bit of cat's piss?”

“Chef, I was--”

“You were going to feed my customers this?” he interrupted. He took the bowl and tossed its contents into the trash.

At this point, Anand returned to his station, glaring at Meor.

The chef turned to Anand, “You don't let the newbie touch your station, got it?”

“Yeah, I know,” he replied with a frown.

“Not until he learns the difference between whisking and playing with eggs.”

Meor went to the sink to clean his hands and whispered to Maniam, “..man, that Mr. Ricky? More like Mr. dicky.”

Maniam, who was usually quick with the retorts, looked up once, then ignored him.

“I'm right, aren't I? Dicky Suave.”

Of course, he didn't realize “Dicky Suave” was right behind him.

“You have a problem with how I run my kitchen, newbie?”

Meor kept silent as Maniam quietly leaves the sink.

“You should learn your place, college boy,” his face was right next to Meor's. So close he can hear his rapid breathing.

“You see this plate?”

“Yes, chef.”

“A nice, clean, perfect plate deserves to be treated like so..” as he says this, he carefully places on the plate a piece of smoked salmon, some salad leaves, and lovingly drizzles on some mushroom sauce.

“Yes, chef.”

“A dirty, ugly plate like this..” he flicked his wrist which sent the food splattering into the sink.


“Deserves this!” he smashed the plate into the sink, shattering into a billion broken pieces.
“Clean it up, newbie,” he growled.

With that, the head chef stormed out of the kitchen, kicking the door open.

“I wondered why that one doesn't have doorknobs..” Meor quietly said to himself.

From then on, after he cleaned up the mess, he made sure he only helped out Parminder for the rest of the shift. His face was red for the entire evening. But by the end of the shift, so was everyone else's. More out of exhaustion than embarrassment, however.

After they cleaned up and closed up the kitchen for the day, some of the cooks decide to go have a few drinks at an empty mamak place a few blocks away and Meor decided to join them. The four of them, Anand, Maniam, Parminder and Meor found a table and ordered their drinks.

“You did quite well for yourself on your first day,” said Parminder while the other two senior cooks sipped their drinks.

“Thank you,” Meor replied. “You taught me quite a bit. Couldn't have survived without you.”

“She didn't need to teach you about meringues though, you're an expert on that,” Maniam quipped, while Parminder giggled.

Meor buried his face in his palm. “Please don't laugh at me. I'm sorry, alright?” he apologized, turning to face Anand.

“Stick to your own business next time, newbie,” Anand said with a sigh.

“He's very protective of his station,” Maniam explained.

“Rightly so,” Parminder added. “He knows more about desserts than any of the other guys.”

“That's why Ricky went bonkers when you of all people took over,” Maniam continued. “Everybody changes stations a lot--”

“--but not me.” finished Anand, his steely eyes looking straight at Meor.

“Well, I thought since his station was the only empty one..” Meor began, but stopped as the three cooks shook their heads.


“Don't think on it too much,” said Parminder.

“Yeah, let's talk about something else,” Maniam suggested. “Like how did you come to work for this restaurant?”

“Well, I've just finished studying Culinary Arts and thought I might get a head start. Maybe one day becoming a head chef myself.”

“Well, you certainly established a good rapport with our head chef..” Maniam remarked.

“Stop teasing the lad, he's had enough for today,” scolded Parminder.

Meor smiled meekly and took a gulp of his iced coffee.

“You don't want to ask us how we got here?” Maniam offered.

“Do tell,” said Meor.

“Me, I've always been a cook,” said Maniam with an air of pride. “My dad was a cook. He taught me everything I know. Bounced around in a few other restaurants and landed here.”

“My story is almost the same,” Parminder revealed. “Except that this is the first place I ever worked in. So I've been here much longer than Maniam. I've actually worked with Ricky the longest--”

Anand cleared his throat and raised his eyebrows.

--the second longest. Anand here has been working with Ricky since before he helped him open up the restaurant.”

Meor said nothing and continued to sip on his iced coffee.

“I used to be a chemist.”

Meor was suddenly fully alert.

“I love experimenting with all manner of chemicals,” Anand continued. “Ricky helped me discover my love for baking. It's all very very similar to chemistry. This compound reacts to this material in these conditions, producing these results,” he's starting to become more expressive now. “The best part are the experiments. You never know what's going to happen.”

“He's right,” Maniam interjected, smiling.

“I always conduct weekly experiments using new materials I discovered,” Anand continued, as if he weren't interrupted earlier. “The fellow cooks are always the guinea pigs,” he finished, taking a sip of his drink.

“Just like right now.” Maniam remarked, swirling his glass in front his face.

Meor has only now noticed that he was the only one who ordered the iced coffee. The rest had some sort of yellow...juice.

“Is that spiked?” asked Meor curiously.

“No,” Parminder answered with a smile. All three cooks are now enjoying watching the newbie try to figure out what was going on.

“Can I have some?”

Parminder glanced at Anand, whose face was again expressionless. Maniam's smile turned into a huge grin.

“Try some of mine,” he offered.

Parminder is now biting her lip as Anand nonchalantly takes another swig of the mysterious elixir.

Meor takes a sip, and immediately spits it out to the floor as Maniam breaks into a fit of giggles.

“This is lemon juice!” he sputtered. “Why in the world are you guys drinking straight lemon juice?” he yelled, before gargling with his coffee.

“Are you okay?” Parminder asked, concerned. Anand was silent while Maniam is still trying to keep his composure.

“You're all drinking it,” Meor realized as he saw that Anand and Parminder's glasses were almost empty. “Why aren't you guys..”

Anand produced three small berries from out of his pockets and handed them to Meor. Already expecting his bewildered expression, he said, “Magic berries, Synsepalum dulcificum,” he continues.

The rest of the table are now listening carefully. With the exception of Maniam, who is still chortling.

“It's the name of a plant native to West Africa that grows those so-called 'Magic Berries'. When the flesh is consumed, an active substance: miraculin, attaches itself to the tastebuds, making sour foods taste sweet.”

“It works really well,” added Parminder, taking another sip of her sweet lemon juice.

Meor is now staring at the berries in his hand. All thoughts of violently murdering his new co-workers have left his mind, replaced with brightly lit curiosity. “What do you intend to do with these?” he asked, popping one of the little rubies into his mouth.

“I don't know,” said a finally semi-serious Maniam. “Trick the customers into drinking vinegar?”

“We could save up on sugar that way..” Parminder jokingly added.

“The berry itself has a mild, sort of cranberry flavor. We can use that in a parfait, maybe.” Anand proposed.

“Or..” Meor started, his eyes lighting up, “We make all our desserts from sour fruits and advertise them as sugar-free?”

All the attention has now switched to the newbie.

“I mean think about it, everyone loves your desserts,” he said with a gesture towards Anand, who merely nodded slightly. “But at the same time they want healthier choices. Now they can have their cake and eat it, too. Pun intended, by the way.”

“So you're going to steal my berries, quit, and open up your own dessert shop across from our place?” Anand asked, mockingly.

“Why can't we just offer the idea to Ricky?”

The three cooks burst into laughter. Even the stoic Anand broke into a smile.

“Yeah, newbie, why don't you do that? He's certainly warmed up to you..” Maniam asked with a laugh.

Parminder opened her mouth to say something, but stopped when she saw the determined look on Meor's face.

“I'll do it.”

The table went quiet, with the exception of Anand, who already was.

“Yeah, I'll do it tomorrow,” he continued, his co-workers' silence making him bolder. “I'll get him to take these berries and then taste a lemon meringue pie. With straight up lemon and no sugar.”

Anand raised his eyebrows.

“Alright, I'll make him drink straight lemon juice, too” he finished with a smug look on his face.

Maniam broke the group's silence, “Oh, that would be too fun to watch,” he added with a snicker.
“Make sure you don't chicken out, newbie.”

* * *

The next day was a Sunday, and the restaurant will only open at 2 in the afternoon. This gave Meor enough time to plan out the meal he was treating the head chef to. Parminder and Maniam were all in the kitchen while Mr. Ricky was sitting at one of the dining tables just outside, eating a bowl of soup. Meor was sitting across from him on the same table, talking animatedly. Ricky nodded occasionally and smiled a few times.

“So how did he do it?” asked Maniam. “I mean what did the boy say to Ricky?”

“He said he wants to offer an apology of sorts for his behavior yesterday. Said he prepared the meal especially for him.” answered Parminder. “I'm thinking he's keeping the ‘miracle berries’ thing quiet until the dessert.”

“Where's Anand?”

“I don't know. He's coming soon, I'm sure. It was his berries after all. He'll want to know what Ricky thinks.”

Anand quietly enters the kitchen.

“So did you help the boy again, this time?” Maniam asked accusingly.

“The soup was my idea. It's spiked with berries. That way the miraculin covers the entire tongue.” Parminder said, smiling.

“Wait,” Anand interjected. “You cooked the berries in a soup?”

“Well, the boy did,” Parminder answered. “Didn't change the flavor much at all.”

Anand's eyes widened, but he kept quiet.

“It looks like Ricky's liking it,” said Maniam, who just took a peek out of the kitchen and saw Ricky put down his spoon.

It was then that Meor entered the kitchen with the empty dishes and cutlery. “Hey guys,” he said with a nervous smile. He sets the dishes down and carries out a glass of lemon juice and the pie he prepared earlier. “Wish me luck!”

Once Meor left the kitchen, Anand let out a snort.

“Why, what's the matter?” Maniam asked, grinning.

Anand looks at Parminder and calmly says, “Miraculin is a glycoprotein.”

“Oh, no!” Parminder squealed and flew quickly out of the kitchen.

He now looks at Maniam and continues, “You can't apply heat to miraculin, it'll turn dormant!”

Anand then let out a series of horrible cackles that almost drowns out the sound of broken glass from just outside the kitchen.


  1. crita ni ko dapat idea dari protein shake ke?

  2. Takde ah. Kat tv tetibe ada cerita pasal Miracle Berry ni. Bak kata acappan, "Tercetus inspirasi."