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Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family
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Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family

3.84  ·  Rating Details ·  1,230 Ratings  ·  242 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 14th 2014 by Viking
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Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle HamiltonTender at the Bone by Ruth ReichlBurnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen FlinnMastering the Art of French Eating by Ann MahComfort Me with Apples by Ruth Reichl
Food Memoirs
3rd out of 36 books — 16 voters
Blackberry Pie Murder by Joanne FlukeLike Water for Chocolate by Laura EsquivelI Can Cook "Pastry" by Marika GermanisThe Recipe Club by Andrea IsraelSlim And Healthy You by Sahara Sanders
Books That Cook (stories with recipes)
24th out of 58 books — 27 voters

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Community Reviews

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Aug 24, 2016 Britany rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Kathleen Flinn takes us through her life-- filled with laughable moments, food, family, and unforgettable memories. Tackling a food memoir for a challenge was outside my comfort zone, but this one was great to listen to on audio. I also picked up the book to follow along and it was filled with recipes from her childhood, and pictures to boot. Burnt Toast makes you sing good was something Kathleen's Grandma used to tell her, and she actually CAN sing good. Many of these stories reminded me of my ...more
Bob Schnell
Advanced reading copy review Due for publication August 2014

I'm a little embarrassed to admit how much this cynical New Yorker loved this "Little House in post-war Michigan" memoir of family and food. I laughed, I cried, I got very hungry.

Kathleen Flinn takes us from stories of her grand-parents in the Depression to her own tween years in the 1970's. Along the way are typically American stories of a family willing to take some risks, have some adventures and, come what may, find joy in simple th
Jul 02, 2014 Marti rated it really liked it
This is certainly an entertaining "food memoir" in the same general vein as Jean Shepherd's writings on small town Indiana. In this case, the author delves into her scrappy Irish/Swedish family history dating back to the 19th century, including many of the recipes she grew up with.

It also illustrates that while American food was never exactly the healthiest (most of the recipes included contain a lot of butter), people generally stayed away from processed fast food until the 1960s. The reason th
Kelly W
Jul 20, 2014 Kelly W rated it really liked it
Kathleen Flinn had it rough growing up, but she strikes me as the type that made lemonade when life handed her lemons. I mean that in the most admirable sense. Her family worked hard, honored their debts, grew a big garden for a lot of their food and even took in an orphaned cousin. I know people like this. The descriptions, stories and recipes rang true. Hand-me-downs and big pots of beans were the norm. Her parents raised good citizens and lavished their kids with love. Hunting and fishing ...more
Nerisa  Eugenia Waterman
Aug 27, 2014 Nerisa Eugenia Waterman rated it it was amazing
This memoir is as mouthwatering and finger licking, as it is heartwarming and funny. This book will make you laugh, and it will make you cry, but most importantly it will give you courage to fight any obstacles in your life.
I couldn’t put this book down, it was like a walking down memory lane….from my first slice of pizza to my first TV dinner. Although, I am an island girl at heart, I can definitely identify with many of the characters throughout the various stages of my own life. I was left wi
What I loved so deeply about Flinn's newest memoir, is that it really speaks to this idea of food being a catalyst for storytelling. I envision using this book as a mentor text with my students to get them thinking about telling their own family stories. They could bring in a family recipe and not just talk about the dish, but also the story behind it, because truly, all family recipes have a story. And each chapter of this book is Flinn doing just that: taking family recipe and sharing its ...more
Leslie Jenison
Sep 14, 2014 Leslie Jenison rated it it was amazing
I have been a fan of Kathleen Flinn since reading her first book, "The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry". I have gifted numerous aspiring cooks with her second book, "The Kitchen Counter Cooking School", as it contains a wealth of information for cooks of all skill levels and it addresses a common and growing issue: the decline of cooking fresh food (which I hope is beginning to change for the better).
This is the story of family, hardship and triumph, and it is all woven together with tales
Ellen Pilch
May 13, 2014 Ellen Pilch rated it it was amazing
I won this book on Goodreads and it is definitely a good read. The youngest child in the family writes about growing up without a lot of money, but with lots of love and food. Reading this has made me realize what is wrong with the world today. Most people sign their kids up for every sport and activity instead of actually spending time with them. These people didn't have money, but they were there for their kids.
My only complaint was reading about killing chickens and deer hunting. Iget the id
Sep 14, 2014 Julie rated it it was amazing
I went to Kathleen Flinn's publication day reading at Third Place Books, bought the book and got it signed.

This is a delightful book, filled with tales of Flinn's family, lovingly told. The stories were alternately sweet, funny and at times sad (I shed a few tears over a couple). I love the photos and the recipes, too. Incidentally, Kathleen Flinn brought a pot of chili (her grandfather's recipe) to her reading, and it was delicious!
Jul 23, 2014 Liralen rated it really liked it
In a departure from Flinn's previous books, this is more of a family history than a memoir. Most of the stories she tells are secondhand (or thirdhand) -- she was the baby of the family, an accident, and some of the best stories are ones that she wouldn't remember or hadn't been alive for.

This was not, I think, an exceptional family -- by which I mean simply that Flinn's experience, and her family's, was not outside what we might expect in the midwest in the time period she describes. I'm remind
Lucy Burdette
Aug 24, 2014 Lucy Burdette rated it it was amazing
Though I very much admired Flinn's book about the French culinary institute, I wondered how she could fill a book with reminiscences about her Michigan family and hold the reader's interest. I was wrong to doubt--the memoir is delightful. Her stories brim with the resilience and optimism that her family showed as they struggled to reach for the American dream. Foodies will enjoy this, but so will the non-food obsessed. The recipes are just a bonus!
Oct 22, 2014 Melinda rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, netgalley
We all know that there is such a thing as Comfort Food, but there is also Comfort Reading--those books that feel like a hug and restore your faith in everyday people. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good gives you both Comfort Food AND Comfort Reading!

The Flinn family is a typical mid-Century, mid-American family. There are now celebrities in this family and the only one that crosses this family's path is Michael Moore in his younger years. They aren't the saccharine kind of family that you might fin
Kim Ambler
Aug 09, 2014 Kim Ambler rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
If you have never read anything by Kathleen Flinn, you're really missing out! She is quite the master of the memoir. She has taken her fairly ordinary life and written not one, but three, rich, compelling books about it. Because cooking is such a part of who she is, each book contains some great recipes for the foods she has discussed. The recipes are a treat, and definitely an added bonus.

This book tells of Flinn's family history, weaving a tale of three generations. The family is, in many ways
May 25, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it
Thank you Goodreads for this advanced copy. I could relate to everything about this book in some way... growing up in Michigan, family life and folklore and even young Kathleen. Even though her family life was different than mine, I could picture every part so clearly in my minds eye. Flinn has a talent for humor, story telling and making your mouth water waiting for the next recipe in the book. I enjoyed the book cover to cover. At the end of the book young Kathleen reads "A Tree Grows In ...more
Jul 15, 2014 Lorrie rated it it was amazing
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Nostalgia, memory lane, Americana, 'good ole days'...I so enjoyed reading this memoir. This author has a penchant for telling stories. The book was peppered throughout with pictures and family recipes. Great read!
Apr 26, 2014 Glenn rated it it was amazing
Wonderful book!
Sep 11, 2014 Georgette rated it it was amazing
Reading is an utter activity of joy for me! It has been since I was a little girl. No one book is the same and readers’ responses to the very same book will not be the same either. For good cause too; reading is personal. Every story will tweak something different within each reader based upon the reader’s family history, personal struggles, lessons learned, current challenges, and dreams of the heart. I love reading! Did I mention that yet? I approach every single book with great excitement, ...more
The Book Maven
Food writer and journalist Kathleen Flinn has gone many places, and tasted many things…but I daresay that she’s managed to stay true to her Midwestern roots. Those roots break through and flourish in this enormously appetizing memoir of her family’s background and her own childhood in Michigan. Each anecdote she offers has food centered at the heart or on the periphery of the story, and each chapter ends with a recipe of the main food mentioned. The recipes sound both solidly Midwestern and ...more
Aug 05, 2014 Mary rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway. I absolutely loved it. An easy read about a real family. Complete with recipes for real families. Flinn's family was admirably fearless. Her parents went through life embracing change, poverty, disasters. They fished, farmed, raised chickens, shopped at the thrift store, "made do". They fell in love with a ramshackle farm and bought it, just like that. That same adventurous spirit put them down on the Florida coast years later. The zeal for life that ...more
Dec 30, 2014 Peggy rated it liked it
Disclaimer first. My friend Martina won the book from Kathleen as part of her Seattle book launch and then loaned it to me. Kathleen was at the annual Tom Douglas cookbook social, where I first heard of her and bought "The Sharper the Knife..." This time she was serving hot dogs and there was a plastic squirt jar of French's mustard. It scared me off. This was going to be a food memoir?

I started the book and found myself interested in a family history that didn't jive with my memory of her Cord
Jan 26, 2016 Alexandrea rated it really liked it
Kathleen Flinn is a true story teller, this books was wonderful and I couldn't put it down. The passion and love comes through in this telling of her family history, so much so that I wanted to be one of the children on those family fishing trips/vacations. Flinn comes from a family that truly lived by the idea that as long as you were together and there was love and laughter, everything else will come to be with hard work. The book had me smiling, laughing and crying at times, but by the very ...more
Jun 08, 2015 Vivian rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Catherine
I have read and enjoyed Flinn's first two books immensely. I enjoyed this one as well, but not quite as much. It is more about her family history than her life, and obviously there are some gaps. She is the youngest of five kids and is the "surprise" child. As always, she includes recipes that are easy to follow. (But as usual, I doubt I will try any.) She writes with a great deal of affection and humor. This book is a prequel of sorts to "The Sharper the Knife", Flinn's first book. It does not ...more
Erica Goldsworthy
Jul 28, 2014 Erica Goldsworthy rated it it was amazing
I received this as an advanced copy. I read this book in two days because I couldn't put it down! All of my family is from Michigan and I could relate to a lot of the stories that were told in this book. I also loved the fact that the author included recipes at the end of each chapter... I can't wait to try one of them! I have recommended this book to all of my close family members and even brought it to my Mom's house to make sure she reads this book.

The author was descriptive, used humor thro
Melissa Lee-Tammeus
Oct 17, 2014 Melissa Lee-Tammeus rated it did not like it
Shelves: borrowed
I lied. I didn't read this - I couldn't get through the first chapter. This is just a walk down memory lane of a girl from the Midwest whose family likes to cook. And, really, the first chapter is a quick run through of family which I could really get from anywhere, anytime. I get she is a New York Times Best Selling author and she had a book of the year - maybe I should have started with those. Because this book? Not worth my time . . . and comparing it to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? That's just ...more
Aug 12, 2014 Joyce rated it it was amazing
I LOVE THIS BOOK! It was a GoodReads giveaway. What a wonderful story, and one I can really relate to. I grew up very poor and I love to cook for any and everybody. One difference, her family recipes are way better.
There were many instances of laugh out loud humor, and of course, tears. I'm not sure if it's going on my bookshelf with reading books or with my cookbooks.
I am definitely going to get her other books.

P.S. I am officially the best Mom in the world after I made the Cinnamon Rolls. Th
Katherine P
Aug 13, 2014 Katherine P rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Flinn is honest and funny yet sweet at the same time. Her parents are definitely the star of the book. They are wonderful - tough and principled but full of adventure and a huge heart. I laughed at times, I cried at times and I pretty much want to make every recipe in the book. I'm glad I already own Flinn's other books because after reading this one I would have had to go buy them immediately.

Full review: http://iwishilivedinalibrary.blogspot...
Todd Garrity
Oct 29, 2014 Todd Garrity rated it really liked it
Shelves: goodreads
This is not my regular genre. To tell you the truth, I didn't even know that memoir/cookbook was a genre. I sure do love it. The author does a great job telling the family story and then retelling it with the family recipe. I now have a few more dishes to try. This is a fun book that speaks to a family that works their way through tough times while still enjoying and living life. Absolutely beautiful.
Joy Matteson
If only all food memoirs were this funny and truly-heart warming. An ode to her childhood and her relationship with food, this book can be a healing experience for many who grew up with less than ideal childhoods, and I believe even for those who've suffered from eating disorders. This family 'got' what love, food, and hardship mixed together gently can do--create redemption. I cried, I laughed. I needed this book in my life.
Christina Dudley
Jul 29, 2014 Christina Dudley rated it it was amazing
I loved this family memoir by Kathleen Flinn covering several generations of a Michigan family. At times it reminded me of LITTLE HEATHENS and even LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, but I liked it better than both of those. Interesting, rich, funny, and moving. My only complaint is that it cut off too soon! I would have liked to learn more details on what happened to everyone in the following years.

Highly recommend.

Thank you to the publisher for the review galley.
Linda Smatzny
Apr 30, 2014 Linda Smatzny rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I loved this book about a young girl and her family in Michigan. The family was poor but became middle class. I am from Michigan so everything seemed familiar even though I am from the area around Detroit. It just touched a lot of chords. The book includes black & white family photos plus family recipes. I received the book thru a Goodreads drawing.
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Kathleen Flinn is the author of The New York Times bestseller The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, a memoir with recipes about her experiences at the famed Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Her second book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, tells the story of an unusual project in which Flinn delved into the lives of nine culinary novices and tried to figure out what lessons they could learn to beco
More about Kathleen Flinn...

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“I don't have to tell you I love you. I fed you pancakes.” 15 likes
“If you believe that life should be full of adventure , then you have to willing to let your kids have them, too.” 3 likes
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