In my middle grade novel, One for the Murphys, food is one of the elements of the novel that helps to demonstrate the differences between Carley’s home with her mother and her home with the Murphys.
Carley makes reference to cans of Chicken Noodle Soup (a food associated with a mom caring for a sick child) that she used to eat directly out of the can because it “saved on paper plates.” However, on Carley’s first night, Mrs. Murphy tells her that they are having lasagna for dinner. Carley asks, “Stouffer’s or store brand?” When Mrs. Murphy responds that it’s frozen but only because she’d made it ahead of time and froze it, it is one of the times that Carley thinks that Mrs. Murphy is a real lightweight, thinking that she is “even worse than I thought.”
There is a scene when the oldest Murphy boy becomes very upset with Carley being in his home, and this all begins with a glass of milk. He wants some but she has drunk the last of it. This represents mother’s milk/caring—something she has found and something Daniel feels he has lost.
Mrs. Murphys Chicken Thingie is a casserole that Carley really takes to. She makes references to it throughout the book. However, it’s the apple pie that has the metaphorical meaning.
In One for the Murphys, trees are metaphors for love and also the changes within Carley. The trees are bare when she arrives, and as she opens up, so do the buds in the trees. Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree is also a part of this story line. When she arrives, the house is “the color of dirt” and “Tall, thin trees stand around the house like guards on watch.” And, when Carley runs from the house, she hides in an orchard. Also, Carley uses a tree in a unique way to defend the youngest Murphy boy from a bully.
In early drafts, it was Mrs. Murphy’s banana cream pie that Carley fell in love with, but as the orchards appeared and the subtle use of trees became clear to me, I changed the pie to apple, tying the metaphors together.
So, food plays a part in ONE FOR THE MURPHYS in showing how Mrs. Murphy feeds far more than just Carley’s stomach.
Here is the recipe for:
Mrs. Murphy’s Chicken Thingie
8 skinless chicken breasts
1 ½ sticks butter
½ cup milk
Lipton Cream of Chicken Soup Mix packet
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups stuffing mix
1. Cook 8 half chicken breasts with onion and salt until fork tender (1 hour)
2. Melt 4 tbsp butter in saucepan. Stir in 4 tbsp flour. Add ½ cup milk and 1 envelope of Lipton’s Cream of Chicken Cup of Soup Mix, mixed with 1 cup of water. Add 1 can of Cream of Chicken Soup. Heat until well mixed.
3. Mix together ½ 8 oz pkg. Pepperidge Farms Stuffing and one stick melted butter.
4. Break chicken and arrange in bottom of 9 x 13 pan. Add sauce on top and then stuffing mix.
5. Bake at 350 for ½ hour. Enjoy!
Mrs. Murphy’s Apple Pie
For 10" Pie
1 1/8 cups sugar
1 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
9 large pared, sliced MacIntosh apples
1 1/2 tbsp. butter
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Mix sugar and cinnamon. Mix lightly through apples. Heap up in pastry-lined pan. Dot with butter. Sprinkle with some small tapioca to prevent the pie from being too juicy. Cover with top crust, which has slits cut in it. Seal and flute.
Cover edge with 1 1/2" strip of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, or until crust is nicely browned and apples are cooked through (test with fork).
Thanks so much for joining me today Lynda! I loved your book and look forward to your next one. For those of you that have not read this check out the book trailer below (then go get yourself a copy, you won't be sorry!).