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How to tell if you’re part French. June 26, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
Tags: , , , ,

We’ve all heard about the ubiquitous urine tests to find out if you’ve taken drugs, and the false positives that result from eating a poppyseed bagel. But now a simple, free, at-home urine test can apparently determine whether any of your ancestors were French.

Obviously, if you’re of pure French descent, this is beside the point. But if you’re of British or British-American or British-Canadian or British-Australian or British-whatever descent, and have any interest in your ancestry, it’s fascinating, in a gross sort of way. Sure, you could invest big bucks in genetic testing to determine your ancestry way back to, say, the first blue-eyed person (and apparently every blue-eyed person, including our friend Ben, is descended from that one person). But how fun and irresistible to try this simple home test.

What do you have to do to perform the test? Eat asparagus.

That really is all there is to it. Well, eat asparagus, and urinate some time later. If your urine has that distinctive “after-asparagus” smell, you’re part French. If it doesn’t, you aren’t. (And if it does, you know what I’m talking about.)

As everyone knows, in Britain, the Celts came first, the Romans second, the Angles and Saxons (and Viking raiders) third, and the Normans last. Our friend Ben’s Semmes ancestors came to England with William the Conqueror, so of course I knew that I had French blood. But, ahem, the asparagus test would have confirmed it even if I didn’t have a clue.

Ah, yes, the scientific proof: The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published the results of a study that determined that 46 percent of Britons, but 100 percent of French people, experienced “asparagus urine.”

The Shape article where I read this via Yahoo! didn’t provide a link to the original research, so I have no idea why the research was conducted, or whether the researchers arrived at the same conclusion or had some other goal for their study and didn’t even address British ancestry.

So of course now I’m curious about people who have neither British nor French ancestry. Do people from all the “Romance countries”—France, Italy, Spain, Portugal—experience the asparagus effect? What about everyone else? Feel free to eat some asparagus and let our friend Ben know.

So far, this research has been limited to the British and French. Opening it up could take us back to a single ancestor, like that first blue-eyed woman or man.

Ancestry can divide or unite, or divide and unite. As we follow our people back in time, it’s inevitable that we’ll connect with more people, and more people, and more people, as the spiderweb of our lineage stretches out. If only we could truly internalize that, if we went far enough back, we’d find our relationship to all people, that everyone was our relative. Maybe such a simple understanding could change the world.

Meanwhile, eat your asparagus. Apparently, it’s good for the kidneys.


1. Huma - June 27, 2013

Yes I do and No I don’t have French ancestry to my knowledge—I simply thought I was kinda of allergic to asparagus. The kidneys information is useful though.

Thanks, Huma, this is really helpful, and confirms that the research was too limited and simplistic.

2. Becca - July 10, 2013

Interesting! My test is easier though. I look at the family tree and see that one side has been in Louisiana since 18-something. I need a French accent just to say everybody’s names! 🙂

Ha! Yes, you’re right, Becca! Now I just need to look up a French recipe for asparagus…

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