Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn
Published August 2014 by Viking Adult
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher in exchange for a honest review

Publisher's Summary:
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.

My Thoughts:
During 2011's Fall Feasting I was introduced to Kathleen Flinn when I read Kitchen Counter Cooking School (which still lives with my cookbooks). A year later, Fall Feasting found me reading Flinn's The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry. Needless to say, when the publisher offered me the chance to read Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good, I didn't hesitate.

With The Sharper Your Knife, Flinn caught some grief for using food as metaphor for life. Clearly, judging from the title, Flinn didn't care. For Flinn, her whole life is about food as metaphor; it played such an important part in her life. Her grandfather wooed her grandmother with food, her father honed his cooking chops preparing meals for hundred of soldiers when he was enlisted, her grandmother kept her children alive through desperate times by means of her ability to make a meal from whatever she could find, and her own family survived lean years by surviving off the land. Like Flinn, my own family is an American Midwest family and Flinn's stories couldn't help but make me think of the way food has played a big part in our lives.

By introducing readers to so much of her family history, Flinn shows how each of them contributed a piece to make her the person she is today. She certainly has some interesting characters on her family tree and life in a family of five children is always full of stories. Although Burnt Toast is not a long book, and there are recipes included in each chapter just as which Flinn's previous books, it still feels like it could have been edited down a bit more, particularly when it came to details about the lives of Flinn's siblings. Still, in the end, much of that detail served to show the kind of people Flinn's parents were and to show why, when the worst happened, Flinn turned to food to save herself and her mother through food.

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