Spinach recall thrills kids all over
Whataya call it when the government pulls 80 million bags of fresh spinach off grocery store shelves?
Answer: A good start.
What about broccoli? And liver? And mayonnaise? And okra? And Hamburger Helper?
Millions of children across the country and one former U.S. president want the answer to at least a few of those questions.
It was George Bush Sr. who went on the record for hating broccoli. And if 5-year-olds could vote, he would have beat Bill Clinton in the 1992 election by a landslide. Five-year-olds would have overlooked Bush's "no new taxes" slip up if he could have just kept the dreaded green stalks off the dinner menu.
The other thing kids hate is spinach, and so no tears were shed this week when E. coli contamination essentially shut down the country's entire spinach industry. E. coli -- a bacterial contaminant that comes from one of the more yucky animal byproducts -- is a serious problem, but you can't blame kids for rejoicing at the spinach recall. Kids basically hate any food that is green and, unfortunately, that includes a lot of vegetables.
WHEN I was a kid we hated green vegetables on general principle. Vegetables back then didn't come from organic farms, they came from tin cans. They were soggy and disgusting. My mother tried to feed them to us in various guises, like casseroles, but we smoked out the ruse. Like little crime scene investigators we excavated through the cheesy bread-crumb crust to expose the odious green matter lurking below.
During one frustrating meal, my mom threatened to stuff canned green peas down my little brother's throat with a funnel. My older brother and I stood by to watch this amazing operation, but, alas, it turned out to be a bluff. Nevertheless, whenever our little brother refused to eat his vegetables we'd helpfully retrieve the funnel from the kitchen for mom with the hopes of seeing the process in action. I mean, fundamentally, it seemed feasible for a really little kid. It wouldn't have worked on us because we were bigger and could outrun her.
THE POSITION of children nationwide regarding green vegetables was summed up in a classic New Yorker cartoon by E.B. White that showed a mother telling her daughter at the dinner table: "It's broccoli, dear." The kid responds, "I say it's spinach and I say the hell with it!"
Canning caused generations of children to say the hell with vegetables. I've got to admit that when I actually tasted fresh green vegetables I was surprised at how they were almost edible. Fresh asparagus, especially, seemed like a completely different creature than the wan, flaccid canned specimen I detested.
As an adult, I've been known to eat fresh green vegetables, sometimes even raw. But when sitting down to a platter of fresh spinach, carrots and broccoli, one can't shake the feeling of becoming somewhat rabbit-like. I find myself glancing about for predators, nose twitching, ready to jump into the nearest hole.
SO, YES, KIDS did not confuse the recent spinach recall with the cancellation of Christmas or the shutting down of Disneyland. They could live with it. And they wondered why it was limited to just spinach. Does E. coli ever strike liver? And why not? You never hear of liver being pulled off the shelves for any reason. If ever there was an alleged food product that needed to be withdrawn from stores it is liver. Have you ever met anyone who actually LIKES liver? No. You've met people who like sautéed onions, bacon and ketchup. The fact that there's a slab of disgusting liver under all that camouflage is just coincidence.
My position on mayonnaise is well-documented. As founder of the Worldwide I Hate Mayonnaise Club, I am the spiritual leader of mayo-haters everywhere. Mayo is the devil's condiment. Instead of annoying Muslims, Pope Benedict should have been preaching against the evils of mayonnaise. (Any pope named after an egg dish made with hollandaise sauce should hate mayo.)
I'm not sure why I threw in Hamburger Helper as a food-like item that should be removed from store shelves along with spinach. It's not that bad. All I can say is I tried Hamburger Helper once and it didn't help. Hamburger doesn't need helping. Green vegetables need all the help they can get.
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org