I read a post the other day where the theme was rebellion, and I immediately thought of one of the few times I was truly rebellious with my parents. It all began with spinach.
I like spinach, now that I’m an adult and can have it in lasagna, a baby spinach and beet salad, or sautéed with onions and garlic. As a child, however, I was served boiled spinach. No butter, salt or seasonings, just a great lump of shriveled spinach in a bowl with green liquid in the bottom. My mother was a great believer in greens: spinach, beet greens (equally loathed) or dandelion greens picked from the lawn (I won’t even go there).
Usually I just choked the spinach down, because my father was a chair, CEO, and director of the Clean Plate Club. We were all members, and the only rule was members had to clean their plates of food at every meal. It took years to undue the effect of that rule!
One Friday night, Mom served us our usual fish along with a bowl of spinach. I wasn’t happy with the fish, but ate it out of Catholic guilt. Teamed with the spinach, however, the meal was a real downer. I didn’t eat it. Dad insisted. I demurred. Dad insisted again, louder. I rebelled.
“If you don’t eat that spinach now, you will have it for breakfast, cold. And NO dessert,” he bellowed. He did not like to be contradicted.
“May I be excused, please?”
“You may go to your room.”
I got up from the table without saying what I was thinking, but I could hear him grumbling about wasting perfectly good food all the way up to my room.
There on the table the next morning was that bowl, now with ice cold spinach, sitting like a lump of accusation, awaiting me for breakfast. Everyone else was having pancakes. I regarded it with loathing while everyone ate. When breakfast was over, Dad told me, “You will have it for lunch. Go to your room.”
I don’t know what I did that morning, but I do remember not being particularly hungry. I overheard my mother pleading with my father to forget the spinach. Something about my being a growing girl and needing food. Not surprisingly, my father was intransigent.
Cold spinach for lunch. Same reaction. By mid-afternoon, Mom was getting frantic. I could hear her begging my Dad to let her give me something to eat. When I came into the kitchen sometime that afternoon, Mom said, “I left the spinach out, so it’s not ice cold. If you only eat one bite, I’ll tell him you ate it…please?”
She looked so distressed, I decided I could manage one bite. So I sat down, picked up the smallest amount I could and still have it qualify as a bite, and popped it in my mouth.
Mom smiled and took the bowl away. “Would you like a cheese dream?” she asked. That’s a toasted cheese sandwich in our family, in case you’re wondering.
I nodded, got up from the table and casually walked to the downstairs bathroom — where I closed the door, spit the spinach into the toilet, and flushed.
Everyone came out a winner.
I noticed we hardly ever had spinach after that — and never on a Friday.