Happy Thanksgiving week to everyone and welcome to this early edition of Crock Pot Wednesday. I’m glad you came to visit or join in the fun. Mister Linky is available now for your favorite slow cooker offer of the week.
Alma, Arkansas calls itself the Spinach Capital of the World. The Allen Canning Company was the official licensee of the Popeye brand of canned spinach for years and years. Alma and Crystal Springs, Texas had a rivalry going on for a long time about which town really was the “official” spinach capital. At the time, the Alma company canned way over half (65%, according to some reports) of all the spinach canned in the U.S. which amounted to around 60 million pounds a year.
Since Crystal Springs was home to the Del Monte Canning Company that also manufactured canned spinach, they felt that they rightfully owned the title and had a statue of Popeye sitting right in the middle of the town just to prove it. Well, Alma resident and knowledge master of all things spinach, George Bowles, set about to rectify the Popeye-less town square of his fair community. He was not about to be undone by some “hick” Texas town! Bowles commissioned Alma's own eight-foot statue of Popeye and a four-foot base which he had set in the middle of the town square making this Popeye the larger of the two. (All good Southern towns have their town squares, by the way.)
The papier-mache statue was created by Red Moore of Mountainburg. For his work, Red got $2400, about half of which was donated by Allen Canning. The statue was unveiled at the town's annual May Daze Festival and was promptly thereafter stolen (probably by a rival Texas town , ahem…or maybe some yahoos from Ozark or Fort Smith). After much pursuit by the locals, Popeye in all of his glory, was found in the nearby Wal-Mart trash bin (of course!).
Popeye experienced some wear and tear due to the weather conditions and to repeated kidnappings (a reward was always in the offering), even turning up to direct traffic in the middle of a road one time. He was finally given a good coat of fiberglass and moved inside when he stands in full homage to the glory that was once spinach!
In case you are travelling through Alma one of these days, but you don’t have time to stop and check out the statue, you can see a good likeness on the town water tower. You definitely can’t miss it:)
So there, Texas. Eat your heart out (or at least all of your spinach)!
Many thanks to Arkansas Roadside Travelogue for much of this information.
A strata is a casserole made with eggs, bread, milk and cheese. This spinach and Parmesan strata makes a terrific light lunch or a delicious side dish. If you’re like me, you will love the flavor combination here.
Serves 6 - 8
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 medium shallots, finely chopped (Use 1/4 cup of a mild white onion if you can’t locate shallots, but I highly recommend them.)
- 2 16-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and drained (You may need to squeeze it until fairly dry.)
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (Fresh is so much better if you can get it.)
- 6 large eggs
- 2 cups milk (I use 1 cup milk and 1 cup Half and Half.)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 – 1 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco
- 6 cups bread cubes, crusts removed (use a sturdy bread)
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Coat the inside of the 5 to 7 – quart crock with nonstick cooking spray or line it with a slow cooker liner (I spray). Melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots for sauté about 2 minutes, until softened. Add the spinach and nutmeg and until sauté the liquid in the pan is evaporated. Set aside to cool.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, white pepper and Tabasco in a large bowl. Arrange half of the bread in the slow cooker. Top with half of the spinach mixture and half of the cheese. Pour the egg mixture over the casserole and press down to make sure the bread has absorbed the egg mixture. Cover and cook on LOW for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, until the strata is cooked through.
Serve from the slow cooker set on warm.
Adapted from Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever.