by Kathleen Flinn
I don’t usually read a lot of non-fiction, especially memoirs and biographies, but this one was recommended to me so I thought I would give it a try. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good is the story of the author’s childhood, family and the food they shared, the two often inextricably linked. The book’s title is itself a memory of Flinn’s grandmother, who raised her own young family during the Depression. Food wastage was not an option then so you had to eat that burnt toast which fortunately, according to Mom, made you sing good!
Kathleen Flinn grew up in the Midwestern US, and uses family members’ stories and her own memories to recount the life of the Flinns. From the pizza parlor her parents owned and operated, Grandpa Charles’ army recipe chili and Grandma Inez’s fluffy pancakes she ties family anecdotes to family history.
Food was central to the household as new challenges and cross country adventures took place. Each stage of their lives was represented by the food in the fridge and the pantry. During the busy pizza parlor days, the restaurant menu which included large pizza pies made on metal garbage can lids fed everyone. Later on, life on the farm consisted of whatever they grew, hunted and canned. Finding 100’s of canning jars in the cellar, they set to work filling them with the farm’s bounty. In the later years, Flinn’s parents moved the family to the suburbs and a life of relative luxury away from the hard work of the farm. Being more financially secure, her parents began living a different life than that the kids had been used to, they threw parties, they went out, they stocked the shelves with store bought food! This in itself was an adjustment, having longed for these treats while on the farm, the kids now found themselves wishing for mom’s homemade fried chicken.
Throughout each move, the kids never once doubted that they were loved. Not always the best communicators, the family spoke through food. In the words of Grandma Inez “I don’t have to tell you I love you. I fed you pancakes.”
Flinn’s tasty memories will pique your interest, and you can make most of them yourself from the recipes included amongst the chapters.