"I'm a German; we don't reheat spinach."
We had a very simple dinner tonite of basmati rice and warmed up cans of jyoti saag and chickpeas. There were leftovers and I asked my husband to put saran wrap over the bowl of spinach and I'd reheat it for lunch tomorrow. He gasped and said "I'm a German; we don't reheat spinach." He said this philosophy also applies to mushrooms. Where did he get this crazy idea? Or rather, why do Germans think this?
Over 5 years! We don't eat that much cooked spinach, or if we do, I usually cook a small amount fresh.
He knows that this is a myth, and assumed it dated to the previous century. But I was shocked to hear this. Apparently the internet is full of this, but rarely in the English language.
It dates back to before there was refrigeration. Even my mother, who was born post WW II believed this to be true.
Apparently, both spinach & mushrooms can develop toxins if left to cool to room temp overnight, then reheated (please don't call me on this. I honestly don't care if it's true).
I generally let all my food cool down, then put it in the fridge. Reheat the next day. I am alive as I am typing this.
Tell your husband a fellow German has survived this for several decades :-)
Here's a webpage from a German popular-science TV show:
The main points:
- Spinach naturally has a high nitrate content.
- Bacteria can turn the nitrates in cooked spinach into nitrites.
- Nitrites are toxic, especially for babies (and potentially carcinogenic for everybody).
- Cooked spinach stored in the refrigerator (up to two days) does not produce harmful levels of nitrites.
The article mentions that there was a rash of cases of blue baby syndrome in Germany in the 1960s, and all of the victims had been fed reheated spinach purée. I imagine that this is why Germans are so wary of leftover spinach. So it's not exactly a myth, but it has been distorted and exaggerated: the problem is not the reheating (if I understand correctly, improperly stored cooked spinach is already dangerous at room temperature), and it's not really dangerous for adults.
The mushroom thing also seems to be about improper food storage, not reheating per se.
This issue never came up with my German grandparents--perhaps because we always ate everything; leftovers were never a lunch issue (the hot meal of the day). I don't remember my German mom's policy on reheating spinach was; however she never brought up this issue--perhaps she was dropped on her head as a baby and didn't know :)
Not so long ago, and maybe still, the idea of drinking ice-cold beverages was also problematic in Germany. Nothing about nitrites, but just a supposition that ice-cold fluids in a body could not be good news.
My German landlord when I studied abroad in the 1980s remembered the Coca-Cola ad campaigns after World War II trying to persuade people that ice-cold drinks wouldn't hurt them... "Eis-kalt Schadet Nicht!"