Author: Andy Brunning

Publisher: Ulysses Press

ISBN: 978-1-61243-551-0

Have you ever wondered why when you eat asparagus that your pee smells? Why do some people including myself hate to eat Brussels Sprouts? And unless you are used to drinking coffee without sugar, why does it taste bitter? Does garlic give you bad breath? What causes fish to smell or blue cheese to smell so strong? What is the reason why you cannot eat grapefruit with some medications? How do energy drinks work? Why is chocolate poisonous to dogs? These are a few samples of some of the questions and topics included in Andy Brunning's Why Does Asparagus Make Your Pee Smell: Fascinating Food Trivia Explained with Science.

Brunning is a graduate chemist and school teacher and is passionate about making chemistry exciting and interesting. He is the creator of the Compound Interest blog that examines the chemical reactions we experience on a daily basis. In the introduction to the book, Brunning states “the aim of the book is to look at the quirky and sometimes downright weird properties that food and drink can exhibit, and explain in simple terms the chemistry that leads to them.” Consequently, he has divided his book into eight sections: Flavor, Aroma, Color, Poison, Sensation, Mind, Health, and Transformation.

For most of us organic chemistry might seem like a complex subject to broach, however, Brunning, who talks primarily about this branch of science in the book, succeeds in the opening pages in explaining the basics in terms that the layman will understand. And as he points out, chemical compounds with their wide range of different properties play an important role in the different effects of the foods we eat and drink as they are responsible for the flavor and aroma of the foods we eat and drink on a daily basis.

After the brief introduction, Brunning moves on to answer the most common questions pertaining to food and drink that many of us have wondered about. For example, did you know that a distaste for Brussels Sprouts has a neat genetic explanation to it? That the belief that carrots can help you see in the dark is a myth and we can trace its roots in British propaganda from World War II.

Have you ever eaten beets and were horrified when your urine turned red? As it turns out beets can cause “beeturia,” or a red coloration to the urine after ingestion. However, this is something that is not universal that affects everyone. And if you are still wondering about asparagus and why it makes your pee smell, which is the title of the book, Brunning informs us that the chemicals that cause the effect are all suspected to stem from just one chemical compound, asparagusic acid, which is only naturally found in asparagus.

Brunning's book is highly informative, well researched, and ideal for showing off your knowledge at dinner parties. My only complaint is that the print is quite small and some of the explanations are a trifle complicated to understand.