Reading . . .

I love reading. As in all-capital-letters LOVE reading. Most of the time, I can’t stop myself from doing it. I read the backs of cereal boxes and the bottoms of tissue boxes, the little lettering on signs in the street and on flyers that come to my house. There’s one crucial exception to this rule, and it’s an unfortunate one for my family, because the thing I seem to avoid reading at all costs is directions.

Take cooking. My mother has a saying: “When angels cook, devils will eat.” Well, I’m the angel, and sometimes my food is fit for devils. And I don’t mean this kind:


Devil's food cake -- a delicious concoction of sugar, flour and chocolate.

Devil’s food cake — a delicious concoction of sugar, flour and chocolate.









More like this kind:














It’s not that I don’t like to eat, and sometimes I cook for an army. But I don’t like to think about cooking, at least not when I’m doing it. Too often my head is in that cloudy angel zone, and I forget that I put something in the oven until that familiar ashy smell alerts me.

When I used to teach kids writing, one of my favorite exercises was the old trick of giving them a list of directions to follow, the first of which is “read all steps before beginning the first one” and the last of which is “ignore all the steps.” So often they’d rush to begin adding or subtracting or multiplying complicated strings of numbers because they ignored that crucial first direction. Little did they know how often I fail to read even the first on the list.

So back to cooking. Having just been through a large holiday (Passover) during which the entire family got together for numerous meals, I decided this week, easy food would suffice. So I picked up a container of frozen pierogis and threw them into the oven for a quick warm-up. And then I forgot them for a little bit, per my usual style. Well, I came back to find a tray of hard-shelled little yellow turtles waiting for me. Hmm. Never seen a pierogi look like that before. The front of the box had said “heat and serve.” And they’d been heated. Looking at them, I was less sure about the serving part.

Studying my pierogi turtles, I was finally curious enough to turn the package over. On the other side, the helpful direction writers had told me there were two ways to make these doughy little treats – fry them, or boil them.

Oh. That kind of heat.

And in nice big capital letters, they added the following helpful hints: IMPORTANT: HIGH HEAT TOUGHENS THE DOUGH. IMPORTANT: OVERCOOKING DECREASES QUALITY.


What pierogis are supposed to look like.  (image courtesy of "Fir0002/Flagstaffotos)

What pierogis are supposed to look like.
(image courtesy of “Fir0002/Flagstaffotos)

My pierogis.

My pierogis.











Well, you live and learn. My husband, an inveterate reader of directions, came around and found the box of pierogis. I told him I’d made a little mistake with them.

He knew what that meant.

“I put them in the oven,” I said.

And here’s where years of marriage began to work in my favor.

He had only one question: “With the plastic still on?”

Setting the bar low in these situations seems to be my specialty. Which is good, because as I wrote this blog post, I think I burned the fish.


P.S. Here’s a shout-out to my fellow blogger Xander, a 12-year-old reader/reviewer from Texas whose dream is to get to Book Expo America this year. If you’d like to help him, you can donate to his trip here. Good luck, Xander!