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

The youngest of five children, Kathleen Flinn grew up in a world of weekend hunting trips, summer fishing vacations and cinnamon rolls for birthday breakfasts. Although she later found her way to Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and a career as a food writer, the connection between her Midwestern heritage and her chosen career wasn't always apparent. But when Flinn began researching her family's history, she was surprised to discover "just how honestly I'd come to my love of the kitchen." Flinn (The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry) tells her family's story through food, from her great-grandmother Anna's hearty Swedish recipes to her uncle Clarence's cornflake-crusted fried chicken.

Flinn notes in her introduction that her family's story is "both unremarkable and utterly fascinating." Her ancestors, immigrant and otherwise, were plain, hardworking people: cooks and farmers, laborers and fishermen. A hearty meal often took the place of an expensive gift or eloquent words. Flinn and her siblings never received extravagant presents, but always got to "order" their meal of choice for breakfast, lunch and dinner on their birthday. Flinn's grandma Inez once summed up her food philosophy as she handed her young granddaughter a piled-high plate: "I don't have to tell you I love you. I made you pancakes."

Readers may recognize their own family stories in Flinn's homespun, heartwarming scenes. Neither the recipes nor the prose are exotic or fancy, but their warmth and nourishment may inspire readers to trace their own heritage through food--or just make a batch of Flinn's cinnamon rolls. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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