Monday, June 2, 2008

Asparagus, Oui

I had the pleasure of the company of one of my favourite Sri Lankan Aunts last week, a wise old bird whom I'm immensely fond of. It was the first time I'd seen her since my divorce so it was nice to catch up and just generally hang with her.

For some reason that fact has stuck in my mind over the years that asparagus is this Aunt's favourite vegetable. I don't know why I recollect this fact so easily, I'm not sure that I could tell you the favourite vegetable of anyone else at all, except maybe Popeye. But for this particular Aunt asparagus is the specialist vegetable of choice. I even have a hunch that there may be the odd person reading this who has identified the Aunt from my meticulous description of her taste in vegetables.

The other day, whilst browsing absent mindedly through the Tesco vegetable section, my eye landed on some asparagus. What exactly is the plural of the things anyway? I'll stick to asparagus, but it could easily be asparaguses or asaparagi. It was the good, previously operated on and sorted out eye that landed on the aforementioned asparagus, not the more recently fixed but still healing eye. Had the still healing eye landed on the asparagus it wouldn't have been able to tell whether it was asparagus, cabbage or beans. It would have seen a green blur, one that became a bit clearer every hour and every day. All except on day three because the vision deteriorates then for some reason. And I expect the asparagus would have been moved by then anyway.

I looked at the asparagus and, maybe with the Aunt at the back of my mind, decided to buy some and try to do something with it, something along the cooking line, not sexual or arty. I've never cooked asparagus before, I've always been fond of it but never had the foggiest idea about how to cook it. I'm sure Pradeep has a million ways of preparing it and I'm positive Darwin can make a cake from it but for me it was new and uncharted territory.

That afternoon I considered my options. I figured that asparagus could be boiled like all the latest vegetables, I could have probably done some kind of fancy roast thing, but frying with butter was my preferred option and the way that I could imagine the things slipping down pleasantly. Like any Sri Lankan the option of currying the chaps was high up on the list, but for once was rejected. Asparagus curry is one of the few vegetable curries I have yet to try and I didn't want the first one I'd ever tried to be cooked by me.

Fried in butter they were. The resulting dish was nice but I've a feeling that it would have been better if I'd boiled the asparagus first, just to soften it up and take that edge off it. The taste of the butter was lovely but I'd fried the flavour out of the little green spears just a bit too much. I enjoyed them and remembered that next time I'll boil first, then fry in butter.

And then the fun started.

Let's face it, asparagus isn't like durian. It doesn't smell, either raw or cooked. It's inoffensive, looks harmless, tastes nice and by jove it's good for you. So what the hell's going on with asparagus and urine? What goes on, after a quick feast on the green things, that makes a chap's pee smell like, well piss? Evil piss, the sort that could be used in bombs.

The first time I experienced this phenomenon was some years ago and I thought it was me, that I was ill or had an infection or something. Then, I asked around and found out that I wasn't alone. A few Britneys of asparagus and most blokes' begin to pee the urinary equivalent of a durian. It only takes a short time for the effect to come through too.

I'm blissfully unaware of any other foodstuff that has a similar effect on pee. I don't know if it happens to every man in the world for I haven't asked all of you, not that you all read my blog. It's got to be one of life's mysteries. Yes, yes I could google it and find all the answers at my fingertips but that would be oh so easy and oh so boring.

For now the following questions will echo in my mind. Until such a time that I google a phrase like "eating asparagus makes pee smell really bad" or similar or until someone gives all the answers:

1. Why does asparagus make pee smell so bad?

2. Does this happen to every man?

3. Does this happen to women?

4. Are there any other foods that have the same odorous on the urine effect?


Anonymous said...

the plural is "as per a guy"

Anonymous said...

Wiki says : The effect of eating asparagus on one's urine has long been known. Marcel Proust claimed that asparagus "...transforms my chamber-pot into a flask of perfume." Certain constituents of asparagus are metabolized giving urine a distinctive smell due to various sulfur-containing degradation products, including various thiols, thioesters, and ammonia.[16] Derivatives of asparagusic acid are also found in urine. The speed of onset of urine smell has been estimated to occur within 15-30 minutes of ingestion.[17] All individuals produce the odorous compounds after eating asparagus, but only about 40% of the population have the autosomal genes required to smell them.[18][19][20]

bogzy said...

Darwin said...

Asparagus contains mercaptan (also found in garlic, rotten eggs etc). When mercaptan is broken down the released by-products cause the smell. Genetics determine this effect to a certain extent - not everyone has the gene for the enzyme that breaks down mercaptan. Genetics also determine if you have the ability to smell it or not.

Why don't you google some asparagus recipes rather than cooking them blind? (I know you're vision impaired on one eye but that's not excuse!)

Anonymous said...

Well either I got the gene that breaks it down, or the gene that gives me the inability to smell it. Either way i'm happy coz I love asparagus sandwiches.

So on a similar note, is there a theory between baked beans and one's gases?

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Wow - thanks for the info. Darwin, googling recipes next time will be on the itinerary for sure.

Anonymous said...

i thought you said you had a dodgy eye and wouldnt be writing for awhile..

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Anonymous - Steady now!

barr-kum said...

If it looks like something from SL cook it like that. (Thats the exs saying).
So Asparagus is like Kohila, i.e cook it like kohila.

So what is Kohila known for, it is supposed to mitigate haemorrhoids/piles (sinhalese: mulama). Well asparagus is full of fiber and I guess that would fill the same function as well.

barr-kum said...

4. Are there any other foods that have the same odorous on the urine effect?
Waraka (Ripe Jak Fruit).

More on Kohila
Taken as a vegetable, kohila reduces unnecessary toxins in the intestines and is effective for other disorders in the intestines. The tuber reduces bleeding and is given after indigestion and diarrhoea (not during). Eaten as a food, it increases appetite and body weight, reduces urine output and burning sensation in the body. It also expels worms.

Probably explains the smell (i.e toxins)

Darwin said...

You've been tagged. See my blog for details.

Gallicissa said...

The plural of asparagus is asparagus in English. 'Asparagi' is the plural of 'asparago', which is 'asparagus' in Italian.