Trivial spinach question

Doug Yanega dyanega at MONO.ICB.UFMG.BR
Thu May 21 13:00:52 CDT 1998

At the risk of lightening the tone, the activity here of several scholarly
botanists prompts me to see if any of you can help on a small question. A
little while ago, a Brazilian colleague asked me if there was any
significance to the cartoon character Popeye eating spinach - thinking that
it might be something cultural.
        My response was that I supposed it possible that it was a US naval
policy early in the century to serve sailors spinach, for health reasons,
and that the image of a sailor who was unbeatable after a few bites of
spinach would be humorous to a contemporary audience. Basically something
along the lines of British sailors being jokingly called "Limeys" because
their naval policy was to include limes in the diet to avoid scurvy. Any
scholarly botanists who can confirm or refute my supposition?
        To stimulate a little tangent, possibly, can anyone else think of
other examples where the real or imagined beneficial properties of a plant
have become the target for lampooning? I can only think of the song "Goober
Peas", myself. ;-)

Wellington J. Wimpy

Doug Yanega    Depto. de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciencias Biologicas,
Univ. Fed. de Minas Gerais, Cx.P. 486, 30.161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG   BRAZIL
phone: 031-449-2579, fax: 031-441-5481  (from U.S., prefix 011-55)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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