Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

_Burnt.jpgClick on top title to open and scroll  In her New York Times bestseller, The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry author Kathleen Flinn shares her adventures at the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school. The book is funny, endearing, and, best of all, makes you feel like you are right in the kitchen with the author. It is also full of mouthwatering French recipes that will send you rushing to the kitchen or at the very least to your local bistro for a fix.  

In her new book, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family, Kathleen once again toys with heartstrings and appetites. 

Burnt Toast is her parents’s story of trying to make ends meet while following their dreams and raising a large family. It is a very American story. Both of Flinn’s parents came from immigrant communities. Kathleen’s mother, Irene, was the granddaughter of Swedish immigrants. Her great-grandmother came to the USA barely speaking English. Her mother, Inez, married an older man and moved to a farm. Irene became a secretary. 

Her father Milton was also the grandson of Irish immigrants. He survived a childhood so poor it could be described as “Dickensian” after his father deserted his mother. Milton, like many men of his generation, entered the service to escape crushing poverty. He fought in the Korean War. Her parents met when her father was going to school on the GI bill. 

Yet, the story that Kathleen tells about her family is one of optimism, hard work, and love. As the baby in a large family of three older brothers and one sister, Kathleen missed many of the family’s leanest years.


The story Burnt Toast tells is far from bleak; Kathleen’s family is full of plucky eccentrics. In 1958, with three young sons and a baby daughter, Kathleen’s young parents moved to California. They went to learn the Italian restaurant business from Kathleen’s uncle who, in spite of being Irish, had a very popular Italian restaurant. The family happily lived over her uncle’s successful “grotto-style” pizza restaurant for a little more than a year. The experience gave her father a lifelong love of cooking. Afterwards he took great joy in delighting family and friends with his Italian specialties. The family returned to the Midwest due to the terminal illness of her father’s beloved older sister.


The stories Kathleen tells about her family’s adventures often involve her parents trying to make stretch a dollar. And yet, in spite of all the hard work and setbacks, her family’s life was full of fun. Her hardworking parents had a talent for seeing the good in things and getting the best of life. Even on a tight budget, they followed their passions and encouraged their children to do the same.


Burnt Toast makes you feel good. Flinn doesn’t paint her parents or other family members as saints, but shares her parents’ can-do spirit and zest for life. This is a wonderful read. I couldn’t put it down. But whatever you do, don’t read it hungry. Like all big happy families the Flinns celebrate with food. The book is full of their family’s favourite recipes and, like Kathleen Flinn’s other books, it will soon have you hunting for a snack.