Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen FlinnBurnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn
Published by Viking on August 14, 2014
Genres: Biography & Memoir
Pages: 288
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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A delicious memoir from the author of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry
In this family history interwoven with recipes, Kathleen Flinn returns readers to the mix of food and memoir beloved by readers of her bestselling The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good explores the very beginnings of her love affair with food and its connection to home. It is the story of her midwestern childhood, its memorable home cooks, and the delicious recipes she grew up with. Flinn shares tales of her parents’ pizza parlor in San Francisco, where they sold Uncle Clarence’s popular oven-fried chicken, as well as recipes for the vats of chili made by her former army cook Grandpa Charles, fluffy Swedish pancakes from Grandma Inez, and cinnamon rolls for birthday breakfasts. Through these dishes, Flinn came to understand how meals can be memories, and how cooking can be a form of communication. Brimming with warmth and wit, this book is sure to appeal to Flinn’s many fans as well as readers of Marcus Samuelsson, Ruth Reichl, and Julie Powell.


You wouldn’t think a memoir consisting of someone else’s family stories would be all that interesting, but Kathleen Flinn had me hanging on each and every account in her memoir Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good. I connected with her immediately, and while reading I often thought of my own parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

Humorous, lighthearted anecdotes are seamlessly interspersed with touching, more serious accounts. Reading about the real, personal experiences of life during the Great Depression and the Korean War was fascinating, and I won’t forget those stories.

Flinn’s parents are just amazing. They are such hard workers, tirelessly doing what needed to be done to take care of the family. They had a very egalitarian marriage and made an incredible team. “If you say you believe that life should be full of adventures, then you have to be willing to let your kids have them, too.” Whether it was a naive stint raising 250 chicks or their enthusiastic involvement in the local German-American club (despite having no German background whatsoever), adventure always seemed to know where to find the Flinns.

I alternately laughed and cried throughout the book. And the ending? The ending was just perfect. She could not have wrapped up the memoir any better. I was deeply moved by how, as a child, Flinn found strength through reading a beloved novel during an impossibly difficult time.

This is a multi-generational comfort read for anyone who enjoys memoirs. Foodies will appreciate how each chapter ends with related recipes, such as the one below (which I really want to try). Loved this book!