The Great Spinach Rebellion

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.

Even creamed spinach is a big improvement over boiled
Even creamed spinach is a big improvement over boiled

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.



28 thoughts on “The Great Spinach Rebellion”

  1. Do you know what one little boy said to the other little boy?
    “Do you know the difference between spinach and boogers?
    “At least you can eat boogers.”
    (My husband’s favorite joke.)

  2. Oh my I remember be threatened with ‘you will have this for your next meal’ for anything I didn’t eat up. Luckily for me, it never happened… but the fear of those words is still very palpable as I read this post!

  3. What a great story! My parents were never big on me cleaning my plate or anything so I’ve always been pretty lax with my kids as well. They ate what was put in front of them or they could make a sandwich or have a bowl of cereal later but I can’t think that ever really happened. My husband’s mother was much more stern about food and this sounds very similar to some of his stories. So do you eat spinach now? I’m not a big cooked spinach person but I love spinach salads!

  4. So funny:-) I am not sure why, but I always loved everything…including boiled spinach with vinegar. Now, I still love everything, but just cook it a little differently.

      1. I wasn’t questioning your dislike “rebellion”!!! I agree that boiled spinach could be very unappealing. I was more or less wondering why I would have “liked” it when I was young…I never questioned, just ate everything.

        Your story made me smile:-)

  5. A wonderful lump of accusation!!! I never had trouble with greens. Spinach we never had – always silver beet (which I think you call Swiss chard). But everything had to be chewed 32 times!

    1. Brussel sprouts are an incredibly acquired taste – my kids actually ate them but we served them with sour cream. My husband and I like them roasted with walnuts now.

  6. Somehow I was spared spinach, else I imagine similar results. Something about the texture and extra moisture of canned or frozen spinach that makes it so different from fresh. I do love a wilted spinach bacon salad! 🙂 Great rebellion!

    1. I think my Mom used canned spinach in the winter. We had a charming Italian farmer who brought his produced around in the summer in a old milk truck. I would never use anything other than fresh spinach now!

  7. Oh boy, did this bring back memories. My parents made us eat everything on our plates too, my brother and I. He complied. I put the peas in my glass of milk, my curried chicken in my lap, and ended up ‘in my room’ more times than not. But now I like peas and curried chicken, just as you like spinach. I don’t know why – we both should resent those foods forever!

    1. I think my Mom used canned spinach in the winter. We had a charming Italian farmer who brought his produced around in the summer in a old milk truck. I would never use anything other than fresh spinach now!

  8. I laughed out loud at the end, the mistake in our house was saying “I like carrots” or “I like green beans” tonnes of the stuff endlessly piled on. I don’t mind saying I like buttery mash though 😄

  9. I think that attitude is half the reason people don’t like their vegetables. Cold soggy congealed, who’d want to eat that? I love vegetables, especially green ones, and spinach tops the list, but I always have it steamed with nothing but salt and pepper… delish! You were such a rebel as a young person, I love your stories, Noelle!

    1. This was one of the very few times I dared to rebel. My Dad was a very strict disciplinarian and I was usually a pretty good kid. But boiled spinach drove me to it! Thanks so much, Ali.

  10. I’ve always loved spinach, but peas were another matter when I was growing up. I hated them. Back then, it was canned peas, no the fresh or frozen delights of today. Whenever they were on the table, my sister Marie and I made a switcheroo when the folks weren’t watching. She hated mashed potatoes. Luckily, we were never caught in the act. 🙂

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