11.297 May’s Vegetable Soup (plus Chicken plus Cream plus Noodles)


28 (Wed) October 2020

May’s Vegetable Soup (plus Chicken plus Cream plus Noodles)


by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with the Family

Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (12) (see 100 NEWBERY M&Ms)

While reading the 99 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922 – leading up to the 100th winner to be announced next year – I will also attempt to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book.  Food plays a strong role in many of the stories; not surprising as the characters in most of the books are faced with adversity of some sort, including poverty, so they’re often very hungry and thus grateful whenever they get a bite to eat – as we all should be at every meal, give us this day our daily bread.  The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.

Missing May (1993) by Cynthia Rylant.  The book is about Summer, an orphan who had been passed among indifferent relatives until she is finally taken in and provided a loving home by her Uncle Ob and Aunt May in West Virginia.  When Aunt May suddenly dies, in her vegetable garden, Summer and Uncle Ob struggle to cope, then go off in search of a famous psychic to contact May in the afterlife, but the psychic is also dead, so they kinda shrug and go on with their lives.  The back cover of the book includes a quote from the New York Times Book Review – “Comforting … complex and rewarding.”

I didn’t really get it.  Reminded me of an indie film that introduces a few colorful characters, puts them in a quirky situation, then abruptly ends without any explanation, presumably to allow the audiences to ponder.

In 1990, West Virginia had the 4th highest rate of adult obesity at 13.7%.  If May’s kitchen is any indication of how West Virginians eat – the presence of the watermelon seems unwelcome, because it takes up space that could be filled with even more crap – it’s no wonder that the obesity rate has tripled to 39.7% in 2019, now the 2nd highest.  Summer likely would’ve grown up into quite a big woman.  When writing the book, the author was likely describing the food to signify love, nary a thought about the potential health consequences.  But even if obesity at the time wasn’t the national crisis that it is now, junk food has always been junk food.

[paraphrased in part]

May turned to me in the kitchen, where she pulled open all the cabinet doors, plus the refrigerator, and she said, “Summer, whatever you like you can have and whatever you like that isn’t here Uncle Ob will go down to Ellet’s Grocery and get you.  We want you to eat, honey.”

My eyes went over May’s wildly colorful cabinets, and I was free again.  I saw Oreos and Ruffles and big bags of Snickers.  Those little cardboard boxes of juices that I had always, just once, wanted to try.  I saw fat bags of marshmallows and cans of SpaghettiOs and little plastic bear full of honey.  There were real glass bottles of Coke looking cold as ice in the refrigerator and a great big half a watermelon taking up space.  And, best of all, a carton of real chocolate milk that said Hershey’s.   

Incongruous to the food in the story, the supplemental materials in this 2018 edition of the book contains a recipe for vegetable soup.  “May grew fresh, hearty vegetables in her garden,” or so the recipe claims.  I’m certain that the recipe was included as a modern nutritional counterpunch.

As per the recipe, the soup was unpalatably bland – healthy, but flavorless.  I added the chicken that I had used to make the stock (I don’t get why vegetable soup would involve chicken stock), then some cream, then some spaghetti.  It turned out fine, though nothing like the original recipe.

(See also FOODS.)

(See also PLACES.)

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