Tales of 4th grade everything.

4th grade cookbook

Fourth grade was my favorite year of school either because Mrs. Rutherford, whom I adored, was my teacher or because Mrs. Rutherford read to us, among many other books, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, one of my favorite books of all time, ever.

Looking back, I should have loved 4th grade for its being the last year of a certain elementary innocence. 4th grade then, and mostly still now, was the final room in the house of childhood magic, where dollhouses weren’t yet fully shuttered and Santa Claus still visited most of the occupants. Romances were starting to look interesting in 4th grade, but in a faraway sense. Boys were still icky and gross, mostly. And we were still silly girls who signed each other’s yearbooks with notes like, “I hope your life is as long as toilet paper.”

The most significant rite of passage for me in 4th grade was receiving my first “F,” given for a music assignment on which I failed to use a ruler to draw the treble clef. I was crushed, inconsolable. My mother, after a quick conversation with Mrs. Rutherford, said something to the effect of life has some real nut-jobs, and you should do your best to ignore them.

One day in late spring, near the end of the year when 5th grade and health class became looming realities, an enterprising classmate scribbled the word fuck on a table in the back of Mrs. Rutherford’s room. I asked a friend the meaning of that word, a word I wouldn’t hear spoken aloud until college, and she drew me a picture that I wish I had kept. A 4th grade view of adulthood is most entertaining indeed.

yeast rolls

What I did keep, or rather what my mother kept that I would later inherit and also keep, was the cookbook my 4th grade classmates and I made for our mothers for Mother’s Day. We each submitted a favorite recipe, careful that there were no two entries for popular fare like tuna casserole (Lee Vining), meatloaf (Darcy Clarendon) and Tang Tea (Ginger Walton). Our resident gourmets, Tempe and Vance, contributed family secrets for preparing chocolate pots de crème and mayonnaise, respectively. I’d share those treasures with you here, but some things must remain sacred.

We diligently cut, sorted and assembled the fragrant mimeographed pages, finished with hand drawn illustrations, all under Mrs. Rutherford’s watchful eye. Even then Mother’s Day presents were largely dependent upon teachers. We wrapped the books carefully, in white tissue if I remember correctly, and waited excitedly until the day we could deliver our labors of love.

“Oh! Are you going to be a chef when you grow up?” my mother exclaimed, feigning surprise as she opened her gift to which she’d knowingly contributed.

“No, I’m going to be a movie star and live in Hollywood in a house with white carpets and white furniture and a swimming pool the color of the ocean. But you can live in the guest house and be my cook. That way we can still be together.”

Happy week.

This post was inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: Leftovers. To learn more about blogging with WordPress and find tips for writing, visit wordpress.com.


Food | Week of July 14, 2014

market harvest july 2014

In keeping with the leftovers theme, this week I’ll be using some leftovers from last week’s farmers market haul, namely the delicious onions. Tomatoes are at their peak for the spring/summer planting, so we’ll have two different pasta dishes, one of which (the one with fresh tomatoes) is also good cold.


This recipe from Saveur calls for more onions than many other recipes do, which is why I like it. If you want to save time, you can use frozen puff pastry dough instead of making the dough. The trick is not to rush the onions when cooking, or they’ll end up bitter instead of sweet. An arugula salad is good on the side, if you can still find arugula. Add some figs, if those are available yet.

Fresh Corn Soufflé

We like corn just boiled and buttered, right from the cob. But it’s also good in baked dishes like this soufflé, which has the added yum of bacon. Steamed green beans with a mustard vinaigrette makes a good accompaniment for this rich dish.

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes

Roasting tomatoes gives them a deeper flavor and enhances their sweetness. If I buy too many at the market, I’ll roast, bag and freeze so they don’t go to waste. This simple dish is easy to prepare and also easy to modify if you prefer a different herb (or combination of fresh herbs) instead of basil.

Fresh Tomato Pasta

You’re thinking: “two tomato/pasta dishes in one week? really?” Yes, really. This recipe from Williams-Sonoma tastes good cold, so you can eat leftovers for lunch the next day. I also like to substitute feta for the Parmesan, which gives it an entirely different flavor.

Grilled Sausage | Refrigerator Pickles

This dinner may have to wait until the following week, if you don’t have a stash of refrigerator pickles handy. We have been making a jar or two each week for the past several, and we vary the recipe from week to week. If you’re never made refrigerator pickles (so easy – not at all like traditional pickling and canning), then here’s a good place to start. Serve with some grilled sausage and sharp mustard.




  1. Aha! Found you at last. And what a beautiful post, too. I remember that cookbook. Except it was 1st grade, we recited the recipes out of our heads to our teacher who wrote them down verbatim (so funny) and everyone was stuck with the same cover to the cookbook done in black and white by yours truly. Even then, I was being underpaid for mediocre artwork. The irony. Now I’m off to stalk your blog (but in a non-creepy way.)


  2. You nailed it, as always. 4th grade was the best. I adored my wonderful teacher, Mrs. Zimmerman, who said I was to be a writer (alas not). My mother, who taught both 4th and 5th grades over the years always said that the difference was scary. That was one of my favorite books, too. Oh, and that soufflé sounds fabulous. I’m gonna have to make that!


  3. What a lovely story and a good list of ideas at the end too. I still remember that lovely metho smell from the duplicator. Today’s kids don’t know what they’re missing out on.


  4. I love this post especially the line, ‘ the final room in the house of childhood magic, where dollhouses weren’t yet fully shuttered and Santa Claus still visited most of the occupants. ‘ Here’s to 4th grade!


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