Spinach and Prosciutto Salad and…The Mother’s Race

There is a very famous photo of Princess Diana – I mean, there are millions of famous photos of Princess Diana but I’ll mention just one.  It was taken at Prince William’s Elementary School on the day of the Athletics Carnival.  They ran a mother’s race and Princess Diana took part as a competitor.  In the photo it looks like she won but she actually didn’t.  But no one was interested in photographing the winner, all eyes were on Diana and she did make herself look like the winner with that victory display of arms in the air.

The Mother’s Race

That was in 1989.  Fast-forward a few years and Archie and Arabella were at primary school.  I discovered that at the Swimming Carnival there would be a Mother’s Race and if you won and broke the existing record you would have your name permanently etched into the school’s history books.

That appealed to me.

So I set about on a rigorous training program of five swim squads per week together with consultations from my coach.  Carl was up in arms about how much this was all costing.  I told him I wouldn’t hear a word of negativity as I had set myself on a path to glory and couldn’t he just think of a way to fund my new obsession.

Baby Spinach and Prosciutto Salad

The record for the Mother’s Race was held by a mother who’d swum competitively for years, and her record was very long-standing.  But I had spoken to my swimming coach about this woman and my coach said, ‘Don’t worry about Deb, I know her, you’re faster, you’ll beat her record by a couple of seconds.’

The day of the Carnival arrived and it’s a terrible confession but I wasn’t too focused on what events the children were doing because I was very geared up for my 50 metres freestyle event.  I was hopeful that at the end of the day I would be on the dias with the new record for the Mother’s Race being announced over the loud speaker.

So with the assurance from the coach that it was a sure thing I was extremely optimistic.  Archie and Arabella swam in their events and I have no recollection of how they did but know it wasn’t memorable.  All was fine because I was going to redeem the family name with my late-in-the-day event.

The time finally came for the mothers to strip off out of their warm-up suits, put on their caps and goggles and stand on the starting blocks.  We stood on the blocks sizing each other up and I did have a terrible case of nerves.   Well we stood on the blocks and stood on the blocks and continued to stand on the blocks and wondered what on earth was going on when it was suddenly announced over the loud speaker that the Carnival had run over time and there now wasn’t time to run a Mother’s Race.

Could they be serious?

They would never have done this to Princess Diana.

We had to step off the blocks feeling humiliated and very silly.  It was the biggest anti-climax I’ve ever experienced.

The school never ran the Mother’s Race again.  But every year in the program they still have Deb’s name in print as being the undefeated fastest mother EVER.

During my competitive swimming career I used to try and feed myself well.  I’d make this salad.  It’s from an old Donna Hay Cookbook and it’s one of our families most favourite salads.

Baby Spinach and Prosciutto Salad

A salad for winners!

Serves:  4

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  This is a lovely refreshing salad that isn’t inexpensive but worth it.

  • 12 slices prosciutto
  • 6 Roma tomatoes halved
  • olive oil
  • cracked black pepper
  • 200g (6 1/2 oz) baby spinach leaves
  • 200g (6 1/2 oz) asparagus spears, blanched
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese shavings.

Salad Dressing:

  • 2 tbspns olive oil
  • 2 tbspns lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup shredded basil leaves
  • 2 tspns brown sugar

Place prosciutto and tomatoes, cut side up, on a baking dish, and sprinkle with olive oil and pepper.  Bake at 180C/350F for 25 minutes or until prosciutto is crisp and tomatoes are soft.

Arrange spinach and asparagus on serving plates.  Top with tomatoes, prosciutto and parmesan.

To make dressing, combine olive oil, lemon juice, basil and sugar, and pour over salad.

Have you ever made a fool of yourself at your child’s carnival?

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  1. What a bummer – poor planning and time management by the school. You should have sent them the invoices for training cost etc, after your children graduated from school.
    Diana looks like she won by a decent margin.

  2. I think Deb managed to shut the race down so her record would stand. I don’t trust her one bit.

    However, I do trust this salad. It looks wonderful.

  3. You make me laugh out loud every single time (so sorry to laugh at your humiliation, but it has been a while and hopefully time has healed all wounds). One could blame Deb, but I bet that she was really tipped off by your swim coach. I would have found a way to sneak in and fix that history book myself; by the time anyone thought to check, it would be 50 years later and no one would remember what really happened.

    Oh, and the salad is beautiful.

  4. I remember that photo of Princess Diana! 😀 Damn…I would have loved to see a photo of you at the finish line beaming that you had broken the record…shame…

  5. What the F? How could they do this to you!?!? you were destined for glory, I’m sure of it. Especially all fueled up like this!

  6. If this ever happens again, simply jump in the water anyway as if the race had begun. The other mother’s will follow (maybe). Whether the biased and bribed judges acknowledge the race is irrelevant. You can brag for years about destroying Deb’s record.

  7. Hahaha you’re stories are always so funny and lovely to read 🙂 I would be so mad at the school that hahaha i might write a complaint letter because I don’t think that’s right they can’t just cancel a competition like that!

    I didn’t know you were a swimmer Charlie! I use to swim too until I started dyeing my hair and chlorine became my worse enemy hahaha Thanks for sharing this recipe! I’m always looking for easy and healthy salads love filling up on them! Totally GUILT FREE yay!

  8. What a disappointment! The dish, though, is not. It sounds and looks great.

  9. Ah, the things we do for our kids. I think it is in the job description that we occasionally have to make ourselves silly for them.

    The salad, however, looks great. Simple, healthy, and straightforward–like so many from Donna Hay.

  10. Anyone who can make a salad like this one needn’t worry about some race. That’s probably why Michelin ratings do not consider how fast a restaurant’s chef can run the 100-meter sprint. 🙂

  11. The salad sounds delicious! I bet you could win every race after such healthy dishes.

  12. Seems so delicious… Thank you, I enjoyed reading this story too. With my love, nia

  13. Oh, wow. I can’t believe you didn’t get to swim your Mother’s Race! I did not expect that ending to your story at all. Well, I am sure you would have won that race and in your families eyes I am sure you did anyway. What a great story. You salad looks absolutely perfect and definitely looks like a winner!

  14. WOOOOOW, all that work for nothing… That must be very annoying!!!

  15. I’d never seen that photo of Diana. She looks so carefree. It’s nice.

  16. Nooo – is there no justice in the world! You were robbed, I tell you, robbed!
    Delightful salad though.
    🙂 Mandy

  17. I think the coach and Deb had secret consultations, money changed hands, and one reputation was enshrined forever. Amazing the length some people will go to to keep you in your place Charlie, isn’t it? 🙂
    I would have told Carl I won anyway, then fed him this yummy recipe to keep him in a good mood!

  18. Oh no! What a let down… 🙁 I’d have been mad if that happened to me!

  19. What an anticlimax, after all that preparation. But at least you had a fabulous salad to compensate.

  20. Oh girl, you cracked me up!! What a bummer!! I would have been pissed if I had left my house ready with a swim suit and then be let down and NOT get to swim! 🙂

  21. Oh no I would have been devastated. If they’re not going to ever run another race then they really should stop promoting that mother as the fastest mother ever. Not fair to Charlie!

    This looks like my kind of salad. Not too much greenery and lots of other yummy bits.

  22. lovely salad and oh my so sorry thats not fair but your a winner to your kids

  23. My mum would love this salad, thanks for posting it. And the story that comes with it made me smile.

  24. How disappointing! It’s a shame that they had to cancel the race. It’s a pity that they didn’t include it in future events.


  25. Oh Charlie, what a shame! I was all excited and eager to hear that you’d broken the record. Humph! Don’t they know how much you trained for this? 😉

  26. Dear Charlie Louie,

    I love this salad especially in summer although I have never used prosciutto and I usually sprinkle very generous shavings of parmesan too.

  27. OMG, how awful!! I could just imagine your face!! Maybe Deb had something to do with it…she was afraid she’d lose her title to YOU!! I happen to have some proscuitto on hand to try out your lovely salad. I’ll think of you and smile!

  28. That’s too funny! If there was a Dad’s Race, my husband would be there on the blocks. I would rather die than have the other mothers see me in a swimsuit!

  29. But… the salad is a winner! The photo is beautiful!

  30. Ok, clearly whoever decided to cut your race must have hated his own mother. Not good.

  31. Forgive me for laughing, darling, but that really IS a very funny story.. 😉

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