Vindication, Spinach & Me
Posted November 6, 2010on:
On an episode of Food Tech on the History Channel, I learned the truth about spinach.
Spinach is not the great gift to nutrition that many have claimed for more than a century. Its claim to be a super food, like Mark Twain’s death, was greatly exaggerated.
Popeye was duped, as was much of the country about the iron content of spinach. It all happened because a Dr. E von Wolf had what is considered one of the greatest typos of all time. His decimal point was one place to the right of where it should be. Thus, spinach gained the reputation of providing ten times the iron that it does.
And Popeye became the ‘toon who was strong to the finish because “I eat my spinach.” Bulging biceps, Batman, what a mistake!
I was never duped. I knew from the beginning that cooked spinach was disgusting. Oh, they tried to get me to eat it at Sherwood Day School, which I attended for kindergarten because I missed the birthday deadline for starting school. Or, as I used to say, I missed the deadline for being born.
This school had a rule that we were supposed to take a “kindergarten bite” of everything served to us. This spinach thing being pretty wicked, I promptly threw up the overly cooked, mushy canned stuff right at the table. Every time.
My teacher or somebody from the school then called my mom to come get me, as I was sick. I went home and played happily – until Mom figured out what prompted my puking. She convinced the school not to force me to eat anything.
And after kindergarten I went to public school.
In the meantime, I have spent my entire life abhorring spinach and a vacuum, of course. In recent years, I have been able to handle the tiniest pieces of spinach in the middle of a dish, such as Pasta Fresco at Noodles & Co., which has baby spinach in it.
Meanwhile back at the typo, it turns out the truth about the nutritional value of spinach was known in the 1930s, but was not owned up to until 1981 when the British Medical Journal reported the error. In the meantime, poor Popeye thought he was getting his strength from spinach for decades. And, Popeye was a tremendous shot in the biceps for spinach sales.
It was meant a tremendous shot of constant torment to children of parents who insisted they sit at the table until they finish their spinach. But not at my family’s table, where my mom never made me join the clean plate club or to even try something that would make me throw up.
And speaking of the clean plate club, I just looked it up and learned that it was a campaign during World War I to make sure that we didn’t waste food in this country. Children in school took this pledge; “At table I’ll not leave a scrap of food upon my plate. And I’ll not eat between meals, but for supper time I’ll wait.”
In the meantime, I nearly stand by the immortal words of Groucho Marx, who said, “This would be a better world for children if the parents had to eat the spinach.”
Actually, what he should have said is, “This would be a better world if no one had to eat spinach against their will.”