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Tuesday
Jul192011

During asparagus season, "Members are requested not to relieve themselves in the hat stand" - Reputed British Mens Club Sign

Some years ago I attended the annual IACP conference in Dallas, Texas.  There were many interesting and informative venues presented, but the one I found most fascinating was a panel discussion that was promoted to represent many culinary science topics, but ended up being dominated by a strange phenomenon amusingly called "asparagus pee."  It started with the first question to the panel from the audience.  A lady was given the microphone and allowed to ask the first question.  She hemmed and hawed and couldn’t seem to produce a coherent question.  Finally. panelist Shirley Corriher stood up and in a loud voice said “oh, you want to know about asparagus pee”.  It brought the house down.  I thought these staid culinary professionals would be put off by the subject, but boy was I wrong.  Everyone seemed to sit forward in their seat and the subject dominated the entire discussion period.

Though the chemical that causes asparagus pee is now known there is still a great deal of confusion about who actually produces smelly pee after consuming it and who can actually smell it.  It's an either/or option.  The story we got from the IACP conference was that there are two genes involved.  One gene is unique to the producer and a different gene is unique to the fortunate soul who can smell it.

No one knows exactly what percent of people produce it, but it is estimated to be about 10%.  The number who can smell it is estimated to be about 20%.  To me the most interesting question is how did they find each other?  I can think of many scenarios that would make discovery possible, but the mystery continues. 

Which gene do you have?

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