Sunday, December 6, 2009

I Yam What I Yam

Cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar created a comic strip called "Popeye the Sailor" in 1929.

This not-so-handsome-but-still-charming-in-his-own-way comic hero went on to star in his own television show and films. Popeye was a gritty sailor who gathered his superhuman strength from spinach. Move over all you protein-pumping, meat-eating machos. Popeye's forearms grew 10 times bigger when he would down a can of the green stuff.

Segar's choice of spinach for the character's source of strength was due to the high iron content found in spinach in a 1870 German study. The research concluded that spinach contained just as much iron as red meat. Popeye brought popularity to the geen stuff for almost 10 years through the comic strip before it was discovered that the German study had made a mistake. The decimal point in the number for the iron content in spinach had been placed between the wrong two numbers making it appear to have 10 times the amount of iron than it really did. In reality, spinach had no more iron content than any other leafy greens. This was not realized until 1937 when the comic strip was well underway, and Popeye had no intentions of changing what was already working for him. Although I imagine if Popeye was created after 1937, he would be downing cans of sardines instead.

Of course, spinach still has plenty of wonderful vitamins that make it very good for you. I eat my fair share of fresh spinach in salads. I am not going to pretend that this casserole should be categorized as a health food. It is loaded with creamy, crunchy stuff that makes it something you really want to eat in moderation. I chose to make spinach casserole for Thanksgiving this year simply because Zach does not go for green beans so much. I am really happy with the way it turned out. I made it very small (about half of the recipe) since it was just the two of us, and I really don't imagine this keeping that well as leftovers.

Popeye's Spinach Casserole:

(Recipe adapted from All Recipes - serves 6)

20 oz frozen chopped spinach (thawed)
6 oz cream cheese (softened)*
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup*
6 oz french-fried onions (1 can)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Squeeze thawed spinach over a colander in the sink to ring out any excess water.
Separate the spinach so it is not clumpy in a large mixing bowl.
Mix in cream cheese, mushroom soup and 1/2 of the french-fried onions into the spinach.
Transfer the mixture into a small (2 qt) casserole dish, and sprinkle the remaining onions on top.
Bake for 20 minutes, uncovered.

* The recipe calls for the whole can of soup and 8 oz of cream cheese. I think this is too much. I used the equivalent of 6 oz cream cheese and about 2/3rds of the can of mushroom soup so that the casserole would keep more of the spinach flavor. You can use more or less depending on what you prefer.

You can see how it fits right in there on the right side of the plate.


KarenSue said...

On my way to Publix right now!

nicky said...

Your detailed writings are getting so enjoyable to follow ; one bite at a time; one recipe at a time.

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