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Wednesday, September 17, 2014
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Published: Monday, 10/7/2013

COMMENTARY

First Grade Recipes is first-rate fun

Author comes up with recipes as a 6-year-old might conceive

BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

Dan Newman is an ordinary first grader. He attends Conant Elementary School in suburban Detroit. He takes Bus 42. He enjoys playing capture the flag, Kid Pix, and cooking. He cooks so much that he even has a blog about it, complete with recipes he invented himself.

As it happens, Dan Newman is also completely fictional, or at least a fictional version of a real person. The real Dan Newman is 25, lives in Seattle, and writes columns about investing for The Motley Fool.

When he finds the time, he also writes the humorous blog First Grade Recipes. Writing from the persona of a first grader, he hilariously comes up with recipes as a 6-year-old might conceive of them.

Take, for instance, Fingerpaint au Jus, which appears to be a perfectly good Italian beef sandwich that has been dipped into an assortment of brightly colored paints. It is exactly the sort of thing you would not be surprised to see a young child do, and the paint even has a certain beauty to it until you remember that it is spread onto bread and roast beef.

The recipe that accompanies it is hilarious, an accurate and detailed set of instructions for making an Italian beef sandwich. But at the end he writes, “Squeeze favorite fingerpaints into side dish, and dip each bite letting the paint soak into the bread. Stay away from purple, as we all know that it tastes like grape, and grape does not go with Italian beef sandwiches.”

My favorite entry has to be his recipe for fish and chips. Acknowledging that “I hate fish,” he uses instead a substitute: Swedish fish. You know, those chewy, fruit-flavored gummi candies that are in the shape of fish. These he deep fries in a thick batter of flour, baking powder, and spices, and serves with chips.

Not french fries. Wood chips. But only the best will do — “I’ve found that the ones under the slide are much less picked-over than anywhere else,” he writes.

Speaking on the phone from his home, the real Dan Newman said the idea of the blog came about during an online chat with friends.

“One of my friends does turtle research and had to make a poster board. That reminded me of grade school projects and we were teasing him about eating glue. We started talking about gourmet glue,” he said, which led him, naturally, to thinking about making pecan-crusted glue sticks. His friends urged him on, and that became the first post on his blog.

Mr. Newman said he is specifically parodying such food blogs as Smitten Kitchen, which go into long descriptions of the weather and the writer’s life before running the actual recipe, and then lavishly illustrating it all with artistic photographs. Mr. Newman takes a series of pictures for each recipe he creates, too, which is one of the best parts of the blog. Battered and deep-fried Swedish fish look just as you think they would, only grosser.

Some of the posts are more conceptual in their humor. One of the recipes is for a “Croak Monsieur,” an apparent mishearing of the classic French sandwich called a croque monsieur. The real sandwich is grilled ham and cheese, topped with a Mornay sauce. The first-grade version looks at the word “croak” and decides it should also be made with gummi frogs — which then melt into sweet puddles of green goo.

Part of the joke is that the recipes are actually accurate until the 6-year-old mind takes over and gets something wrong. The dirt cake, for instance, contains all the right ingredients — pudding, Oreos, cream cheese, butter, and Cool Whip — plus one that is decidedly wrong: real dirt.

And then there is the choking-hazard pizza. The dough is a mixture of flour, water, oil, sugar, salt, and yeast that is allowed to rise, punched down, and refrigerated. “When you’re ready to eat, toss… the dough, making sure it’s not too thick, and cover with your favorite choking hazards, sauce, and cheese.” The picture shows a pizza covered with pennies, screws, a paper clip, pills, a ballpoint pen cap, and a toy car.

Mr. Newman’s blog is at firstgraderecipes.tumblr.com.

Contact Daniel Neman at 
dneman@theblade.com 
or 419-724-6155.



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