i'm just here to kinkshame proust
June 24, 2016 12:24 PM   Subscribe

An Investigation of Asparagus Pee: Ben Franklin called it a "disagreeable odour." Marcel Proust praised it as a "perfume." Here we look into the mystery of an odd phenomenon.
posted by poffin boffin (63 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hm, not sure Proust was praising it when he called it a perfume... but I suppose it is a bit musky?
posted by maryr at 12:36 PM on June 24, 2016


Metafilter: i'm just here to kinkshame proust
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:39 PM on June 24, 2016 [22 favorites]


Has anyone ever tried eating both asparagus and Sugar Smacks to see if they cancel each other out?
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:40 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Asparagus is my favorite vegetable so I eat a lot of it. I make the smelly pee and I can smell the smelly pee. At least my own, I don't think I've ever been in a situation where I would have been able to smell another asparagus-eater's pee.

The thing that amazes me is how quickly it comes on. It's like as soon as you eat it your pee is gonna smell. you could eat a stalk of asparagus mid-stream and before you were done your pee would smell. I mean not that you would...

It's not a pleasant smell, but it's not unpleasant either. I feel like people who can't smell it or don't make it are missing out on a fun little after dinner science experiment.
posted by bondcliff at 12:40 PM on June 24, 2016 [24 favorites]


Marcel Proust praised it as a "perfume."

Remembrance of Things Pissed
posted by Atom Eyes at 12:40 PM on June 24, 2016 [92 favorites]


Sugar Smacks

Do explain.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 12:41 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


A reminder to us all that the study of poffins begins with "p."
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:43 PM on June 24, 2016


MetaFilter: When I told him Marcel Proust loved it, he just laughed.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:46 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Asparagus P." is actually my hip-hop name (all the good names were gone by the time I got word they were handing them out).
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:50 PM on June 24, 2016 [11 favorites]


There's a paper publised in 2010 confirming that producing and being able to smell the asparagous odour are seperate traits, and claiming that the ability to smell asparagus pee is caused by (or, at least, linked with) a single nucleotide mutation on Chromosome 1, amongst a bunch of known olfactory markers. I did once find a paper looking at the inheritance pattern of *prodicing* the odour, which confirmed that there must be a monogenic cause (I think it was dominant), but didn't try to work out exactly where the gene is.
posted by metaBugs at 12:51 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


I recall reading in the Robert Creamer biography of Babe Ruth, I think it was Mayor LaGuardia's wife offered the Babe some asparagus, to which he replied, ' not thank you, it makes my urine stink.'
posted by xbonefish at 12:53 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do explain.

I don't have to explain a thing, especially since there was already an Ask about this in 2006.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:03 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also Frosted Mini-Wheats.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 1:12 PM on June 24, 2016


It's like as soon as you eat it your pee is gonna smell.

I'd also like to know how my body manages to produce the odor so. damned. fast. And often with just miniscule amounts of raw material to work from -- like a salad or stir-fry that maybe has 1 full asparagus stalk cut up in it will produce results within minutes.

I feel like time travel must be involved somehow.
posted by sparklemotion at 1:29 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


From that Golden Crisp AskMe:
"Then how come my urine never smells like chocolate chip cookies? I eat those all the time."

LOL!
posted by jillithd at 1:30 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


At least my own, I don't think I've ever been in a situation where I would have been able to smell another asparagus-eater's pee.

I went into the urinals at a banquet where they had served asparagus and the odor was overwhelming.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:41 PM on June 24, 2016 [9 favorites]



Also Frosted Mini-Wheats.


I've noticed it with puffed wheat cereals, even unsweetened.

I don't exactly think it will cancel out the asparagus.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:11 PM on June 24, 2016


I remember my first appartment in college and going to a farmstead to pick up my CSA with my girlfriend and finding some lovely asparagus in the mix and coming home and sautéing the asparagus with some mushrooms, garlic and onions.

I remember this because after dinner we both used the bathroom and didn't think anything of it until we realized the whole place smelled like the sewer system backed up. Farm fresh asparagus, ultra rich in nutrients, intensifies the smell even moreso.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:24 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I love asparagus pee because it gives me a marker for how quick things are passing through my kidneys! Also, a slow onset is a nice clear indicator I need to drink more water. I mean, how cool is that?! And it even tastes good!
posted by Matt Oneiros at 2:30 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Um, you're saying asparagus pee tastes good?
posted by dnash at 2:32 PM on June 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Err, haha. I suppose "it" was hardly specific enough there.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 2:39 PM on June 24, 2016


I spoke to Marc Herskowitz, a physician who specializes in urology, and asked if there were other things people consumed that might change their urine as drastically as asparagus does. “No, not at all,” he replied.

Has he never heard of beets?
posted by frogmanjack at 2:44 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sugar Smacks

Do explain.

I think that smell is probably due to sotolon:
Sotolon (also known as sotolone) is a lactone and an extremely powerful aroma compound, with the typical smell of fenugreek or curry at high concentrations and maple syrup, caramel, or burnt sugar at lower concentrations. Sotolon is the major aroma and flavor component of fenugreek seed and lovage,[1] and is one of several aromatic and flavor components of artificial maple syrup.[2] It is also present in molasses, aged rum, aged sake and white wine, flor sherry, roast tobacco,[3] and dried fruiting bodies of the mushroom Lactarius helvus.[4] Sotolon can pass through the body relatively unchanged, and consumption of foods high in sotolon, such as fenugreek, can impart a maple syrup aroma to one's sweat and urine. In some individuals with the genetic disorder maple syrup urine disease, it is spontaneously produced in their bodies and excreted in their urine, leading to the disease's characteristic smell.[5]

This molecule is thought to be responsible for the mysterious maple syrup smell that has occasionally wafted over Manhattan since 2005.[6]

Sotolon was first isolated in 1975 from the herb fenugreek.[7] The compound was named in 1980 when it was found to be responsible for the flavor of raw cane sugar: soto- means "raw sugar" in Japanese and -olon signifies that the molecule is an enol lactone.[8]
posted by jamjam at 2:51 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


you could eat a stalk of asparagus mid-stream and before you were done your pee would smell. I mean not that you would...

I really want you to try this now. I either can't make or don't smell the smell otherwise I would do it, so you'll have to try it instead. Trust me, I'm a scientist.
posted by shelleycat at 3:09 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I need someone to smell my pee.
posted by howfar at 3:10 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Goddamn, my pee smells just from reading this article.
posted by maryr at 3:15 PM on June 24, 2016 [7 favorites]


i love asparagus and can definitely smell it

my girlfriend can't smell it and had never heard of this phenomenon until i brought it up with her and thinks it's weird that I think it's fun (science!)

however, i also eat plenty of beets and have never had my pee change color. I've never tried it with, say, borscht, though.

this has been pee facts with me, area metafilter member dismas
posted by dismas at 3:24 PM on June 24, 2016 [13 favorites]


This reminds me I once had a friend many years ago whose wifi password was "asparaguspee."
posted by smirkette at 4:02 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


i am grilling 2lbs of delicious pee-enstinkeners for dinner and i am excite
posted by poffin boffin at 4:04 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


I used to notice the smell every time I ate asparagus, but in the past few years I haven't. I was wondering whether they had engineered asparagus plants to remove that trait. I guess a more likely explanation is that I no longer am able to smell it for some reason.
posted by jkent at 4:04 PM on June 24, 2016


I spoke to Marc Herskowitz, a physician who specializes in urology, and asked if there were other things people consumed that might change their urine as drastically as asparagus does. “No, not at all,” he replied.

If I eat Campbell's soup, I can smell it in my piss. It is bizarre.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:30 PM on June 24, 2016


"Kinkshaming Proust" sounds like the name of an indie-band album.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:32 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


My husband and I both can smell asparagus pee, and we both produce it. It's kind of a joke with us, thanks to an Austin Powers movie.

Re beets: Trader Joe's has beet chips ( like potato chips, but beets). The packages aren't that big, so I ate a whole package of them one day.

The next day, I thought I was in kidney failure or something equally dire. It honestly freaked me the heck out. Then I remembered the beets.
posted by Archer25 at 5:34 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


i am grilling 2lbs of delicious pee-enstinkeners for dinner and i am excite

So, you're just going to sit at a heaping plate of 2 pounds of asparagus and dig in?

Not judging, just painting a picture.
posted by the bricabrac man at 5:40 PM on June 24, 2016


Um, you're saying asparagus pee tastes good?

It's notorious for making semen rank, so I'd guess not so much.
posted by Candleman at 5:54 PM on June 24, 2016




This molecule is thought to be responsible for the mysterious maple syrup smell that has occasionally wafted over Manhattan since 2005.

I smelt that, but I did not dealt that.
posted by vrakatar at 6:51 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one that can smell coffee in their pee? Asparagus certainly isn't the only consumable that leads to weird smelling pee, I hope.
posted by mollweide at 7:22 PM on June 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I can definitely smell coffee in my pee.
posted by RustyBrooks at 7:26 PM on June 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


I can smell asparagus in my pee and I don't hate the smell. However, something else occasionally causes a different smell in my pee AND I CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHAT IT IS!
posted by BentFranklin at 8:01 PM on June 24, 2016


I hate asparagus (it is bitter but also it tastes like asparagus) but cannot smell asparagus pee. My other olfactory SNP features: I detect soap in the flavor of cilantro, I can't taste saffron at all, and I don't taste PTC.
posted by gingerest at 8:06 PM on June 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Only ever asparagus, or good coffee, makes itself known. No other foods.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:16 PM on June 24, 2016


Thanks for the verification that I only drink good coffee!
posted by mollweide at 8:45 PM on June 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


It honestly freaked me the heck out. Then I remembered the beets.

This happened to me, too! And honestly, I've never been able to eat the beet chips again.
posted by TwoStride at 10:31 PM on June 24, 2016


I can smell coffee in my sweat. Dunno about the pee.
posted by shelleycat at 10:31 PM on June 24, 2016


So, you're just going to sit at a heaping plate of 2 pounds of asparagus and dig in?

yes and it was gone in about 13 seconds

i really like asparagus
posted by poffin boffin at 10:31 PM on June 24, 2016 [10 favorites]


No other foods.

Sator (or "stink") bean does make itself known, too (self link blogpost here)
posted by Namlit at 2:23 AM on June 25, 2016


There's a seasonal vegetable here, which I think is imported from China. It's generally called "garlic shoots" but they're cylindrical, about half a meter (18") long and taper gently from say .7 cm (1/4") at the thick end to 2/3 of that at the thinner end. They taste like garlic-scented spring onions but they're crunchy and solid, not made up of concentric layers. They're really good.

Anyway, I got a whole lot of them and made a stir-fry as if they were long beans / green beans, fried until slightly charred and dressed with salt and soy sauce. So yummy. But I smelled of garlic for days. It came out in my sweat! I could actually smell myself! So now I just use them as an aromatic addition to stir fried food, not as a vegetable on its own.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:26 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can definitely smell coffee in urine and garlic in sweat. But never asparagus. I have always felt sad about this.
posted by howfar at 2:30 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Asparagus pee is like moonlight. There's no other way to describe it properly than by its own name...
posted by Namlit at 2:32 AM on June 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


We've gotten this far in the thread and nobody has commented on the fact that Asparagus will also turn your pee green? It's not just smelly pee, it's smelly green pee.
posted by HuronBob at 3:28 AM on June 25, 2016


Only ever asparagus, or good coffee, makes itself known. No other foods.

I mostly drink instant Nescafe, which I would hesitate to describe as "good coffee," and I can definitely smell it on the way out, especially if I am slightly dehydrated.

Drinking a lot of red wine also makes my pee smell the next morning, but I'm not so sure if that is the wine or the inevitable dehydration from forgetting to drink enough water. I only notice it with wine, never beer, though.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:07 AM on June 25, 2016


I would've loved to have finished this article, but I'm tethering right now, and a big autoplay mayonnaise video ad just came up that I could only minimize, not close.
posted by limeonaire at 6:31 AM on June 25, 2016


It's generally called "garlic shoots"

In the US they're called garlic scapes, and they are the best thing. Usually only available at farmer's markets in early summer. Excellent as pesto, among other things.
posted by nev at 7:23 AM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I spoke to Marc Herskowitz, a physician who specializes in urology, and asked if there were other things people consumed that might change their urine as drastically as asparagus does. “No, not at all,” he replied.

He buys a different brand of vitamin B tablets than I do.
posted by flabdablet at 7:36 AM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I put some beets in my smoothie for the first time the other day and then forgot about it totally until a little while later I went to pee and screamed for my wife because it was, like, red.

Then I remembered that skit from Portlandia and relaxed. Let me see if I can find it....
posted by kbanas at 7:49 AM on June 25, 2016


Oh. Here it is!
posted by kbanas at 7:51 AM on June 25, 2016


Proust would have loved petai.
posted by BinGregory at 7:52 AM on June 25, 2016


I can smell asparagus in my pee. Also, coffee, some vitamins and penicillin based antibiotics.
Yay, me?
posted by Gadgetenvy at 8:13 AM on June 25, 2016


Metafilter: Overthinking a bowl of urine.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:31 AM on June 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


Something occasionally makes my pee smell of smokey bacon flavour crisps, but I've never worked out what it is.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 2:07 AM on June 26, 2016


It's notorious for making semen rank, so I'd guess not so much.

Maybe one day it'll make admiral.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 6:36 AM on June 26, 2016 [6 favorites]


Okay, I just watched all of 30 Rock for the first time and now I'm kind of shocked that the maple syrup smell is apparently a real thing and not made up for the show. That's kind of awesome.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 1:42 PM on June 26, 2016


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