Read the recipe

As soon as they walked in the door, I welcomed the visiting granddaughters with a challenge, “this time you have to choose and prepare all of the meals. You cannot just pour cereal for breakfast. You must fix something to eat.” I pointed them to food ingredients, measuring cups and mixing bowls.

Even though I did not have a box of pancake mix, pancakes turned out to be the preferred breakfast food. The first time, the oldest child made pancakes and added food coloring to the batter until it was her favorite color – purple. Or maybe her favorite color is black – it did take a few cakes to find the right temperature for frying pancakes.
The next time another child wanted to make cheese pancakes. The recipe variation said to “add a cup of cheese and omit sugar.”
She found the cheese in the refrigerator, but no matter where she looked in my cupboard of baking ingredients she could not find the “omit sugar.”
“What does omit mean?” Grandpa asked. She gave him a confused answer.
“It means ‘to leave it out’,” he said.

She finished making a decent set of pancakes with omit sugar and a teaspoon of cheese.
While waiting for the children to wake up Sunday, I followed my favorite recipe for applesauce muffins – except it did not say omit flour.

“Everyone makes mistakes in cooking,” I told the children when they saw my sorry mess.
They made their own mess building individual pizzas for supper and ate every bite. I pointed out we needed a green vegetable. The “I hate vegetables” kid immediately went straight to the freezer, chose peas and carrots, heated them in the microwave and ate them with a smile.

No one greeted me with a smile after I talked with their mother about their hacking coughs. She said that they had a cough syrup to take for their colds. I found the medicine and insisted they had to take it.

The biggest one resisted. I don’t know how to make a big kid take their medicine so I stepped back from the recipe for eclairs we had started to make. I follow the rule of “do something for grandma and she will do something for you.”
“If you don’t want to listen to me about the medicine, then I can’t tell you how to prepare eclairs.”
She ignored me and went back to cooking. “I can’t find the 1/8 teaspoon for the salt.”
I raised my eyebrows in response.
“Does 1/4 teaspoon and 1/4 teaspoon make 1/8 teaspoon?”
I looked significantly at the medication and answered the ringing phone.
She started to ask me a question. I ignored her.

She flounced back to the counter, measured out some salt, added it to cold water, along with a packed down cup of flour, a cold stick of butter, four eggs and began stirring.
The cold butter in the cold water broke into lumps and floated on top of it all. It did not look right.

She yielded, took the medicine and asked for my help.
I walked over and looked at the yellow gloop.

“That is not eclair dough. Read the recipe.”
She began reading how to make the topping.
“No, read it from the beginning.”
After another false start, she read down the numbered instructions to the step which said to “bring the water, butter and salt to a boil.”


“That recipe was written by an adult who knows how to make eclairs. I am an adult who told you to take the medicine I know you need. Because you did not listen to me or read what the adult wrote in the recipe, we can’t make eclairs because we don’t have time to start over again. Listen to adults, they know what they are doing.

Well, sometimes adults know what they are doing.
Before the children left the next morning, I decided to surprise them with quiche for a breakfast tea.
Quiche is easy: Eggs, milk, cheese, veggies and maybe meat. I quit reading quiche recipes a long time ago.

Several minutes after I closed the oven door, I realized I had made it with omit eggs.
No one saw me pull out the soupy pie, dump it all in a mixing bowl and throw away the soggy crust. I quickly added the eggs, poured the corrected quiche into a fresh pie crust, thrust it in the oven and set the table with china plates and tea cups.
We had a lovely breakfast and no one said a word about the adult who made quiche without reading and following all the instructions.

(Still a student of cookery, Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at