The secret to Popeye’s strength is not a well-kept one. Everyone knows that he’s “strong to the finish ‘cos he eats his spinach”. But the reason for his affection for this leafy green is more obscured. One popular myth claims he’s in it for the iron.
The myth goes like this: a 19th century German chemist misplaced a decimal point on a nutritional table, prompting the iron content of spinach to be grossly over-rated. This putative ferric potency of Spinach then convinced cartoonist E. C. Segar to make it the go-to food for his character Popeye.
This story has been promoted by many well-respected journalist and scientists as an example of the influence small mistakes can have, and the importance of checking your facts. Ironically, the story itself is spurious. It has proliferated because none of it’s promoters bothered to fact-check their allegory about fact-checking. James Sutton has the full story here.
But there’s another popular working man with a vegetable super food. It’s a-Mario, and he always eats his mushrooms. While not as widely cited as the Spinach story, Mario’s penchant for fungi does come with its own popular myth. Like Carroll’s Alice, people seem to think that Mario is on drugs. Continue reading