Book Buzz: Burnt Toast

Some kids dream of being a doctor, an airline pilot, a teacher.

Me? I wanted to be a farmer.

Like a country mouse in the city, I felt out of place in our suburban neighborhood. My destiny was to live on a farm, of that I was certain. A farm with horses and cows and chickens, where I would get up at the crack of dawn to milk the cows and muck out the stalls. I would gather eggs from the hen house and bring them to my mother (Maw) who would scramble them up for a hearty breakfast with homemade biscuits and strawberry preserves to top it off.

I begged my parents to ditch the suburban nonsense and move to the country. Also? We needed to grow our family. Look at any farm family, I told them. You need a passel of kids to help with the chores. So we needed to adopt a few, and a big sister would be much appreciated. They listened patiently, but it was only cute for so long. When my beseeching disintegrated into petulant whining they either changed the subject or sent me to to my room.

A life on the farm was not in the cards.

Burnt Toast

However, my fascination with farm life has remained strong, and that’s why I enjoyed reading “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food & Love from an American Midwest Family.”

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

Author Kathleen Flinn, who has written two previous books on her fascination with the culinary world, including the New York Times bestselling memoir, “The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry,” has penned this homage to a childhood short on luxuries but long on farming, love … and home cooking.

Good cooks and food enthusiasts run in Flinn’s Swedish and Irish family, and this memoir is chock full of anecdotes related to the joy of eating. From foraging for morels to fishing for smelt and preparing Grandpa Charles’ chili, each chapter is a page of Flinn’s childhood, recounted with charm and a sense of fun.

I was amazed to learn how voluminous a family farm operation can be. From the bounty of their garden Flinn’s mother canned 80 quarts of applesauce, 120 quarts of tomatoes and 80 quarts of peaches each year. And that was just the beginning.

Because money was tight in those early years, her mother learned how to stretch a dollar while making wholesome, tasty food for her growing brood. Flinn has compiled many of the family favorites and each chapter ends with a recipe, such as this one for Apple Crisp.

Apple Crisp from Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

If you’re wondering why the title is “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good,” it refers to Flinn’s grandmother’s phrase used to get a picky child to eat. Grandma Inez had other memorable quotes, like this:

Grandma Inez from Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

I’ve already tried one recipe and can’t wait to try more. I made these rolls this week and they were a big hit with my husband. They are best hot from the oven with a dab of butter.

No-Knead Yeast Rolls from Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

Aunt Myrtle’s No-Knead Yeast Rolls

Makes 2 dozen

1 package (1/4 oz.) active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water
1/4 c. vegetable shortening
1 1/2 t. salt
2 T. sugar
1 c. boiling water
1 large egg
3 1/2 c. all purpose flour

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit 10 minutes.

In a different bowl, combine the shortening, salt, sugar, and boiling water. Let cool slightly. Add the dissolved yeast, egg and flour and mix well; the dough will be slightly sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the dough for at least two hours and up to 24.

Coat a muffin pan with cooking spray. Pinch off dough and fill each muffin slot about 1/3 full. Brush the tops with melted butter. Let rise for about two hours in a warm place, until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Bake the rolls for 20 minutes, or until they rise up firmly and are slightly browned. Let cool slightly before removing from the pan. Store leftovers in an airtight container.


Maybe I’ve still got some of the farm girl in me. I’m hankering for some homemade strawberry preserves to go with those rolls. I’m going to learn how to make it myself.


I am delighted to be able to offer a copy of “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good” to one of my readers. Please leave a comment below and the winner will be contacted next week. Only US addresses eligible.

Disclosure: I received a copy of “Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good” from Viking and Penguin Books for an honest review. Which this is.

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89 Thoughts on “Book Buzz: Burnt Toast

  1. As a foodie myself, this sounds like a fun book. I grew up in a big Italian family and eating was a big part of my childhood.

  2. Oh man… the mention of Strawberry Preserves has my mouth watering.. and on a hot roll right out of the oven would be even better.
    What a great name for a book. Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good

  3. I love books that also come with some recipes. That’s one reason why my copy of Fried Green Tomatoes is so beat up.

  4. I would love to have one of those yeast rolls right now! It sounds like a great book. Thanks for sharing.

  5. I think a lot of us would love to live a more simple, rural life. Till we got there! But the food? Yeah. Yum.

    • hbludman on August 18, 2014 at 7:30 pm said:

      I’m sure I had an idealized vision of it, never comprehending all the work involved.

  6. Helene! Who knew you wanted to be a farmer? How did we never get around to that topic?! I loved Kathleen Finn’s “The Sharper Your Knife …” and definitely want to read this one. And I wish we lived closer to I could taste the biscuits you made since I probably won’t be making my own any time soon. They sound delicious!

    • hbludman on August 18, 2014 at 7:30 pm said:

      Lois, we need another trip. Obviously there are topics yet to be covered. xoxo

  7. Sounds like an interesting read and I might actually get some useful cooking out of it with the recipes included! I am not a very good cook! Thanks for the recommendation!

  8. I love the title of this book! This is certainly one I would love to read!

  9. That’s a memorable name for a book! Those rolls look delicious.

  10. How funny — the one thing I knew I never wanted to be was a farmer! They work so hard and pigs, no matter how cute you think they could be, are freaking mean! This book and the recipes sound amazing! Thanks for sharing!

    • hbludman on August 18, 2014 at 7:32 pm said:

      LOL, you are so funny, Ruth. If I ever get my farm will you come visit? I promise, no pig interactions.

  11. I want to live on a farm, but I don’t think I want to be a farmer. Actually, I just want a farmhouse porch…that’s what I want. And someone to make bisquits for me. Heh.

  12. Sounds like an amazing book, I love the title of it!

  13. Another great book Helene. I don’t consider myself a farmer but I do have a raised bed garden and grow some of my own salad and vegetables during our growing season. Nothing beats fresh grown food! I’ll bet there are some recipes in there I could use! ~Kathy

    • hbludman on August 18, 2014 at 7:33 pm said:

      I bet you would find something, Kathy! Good for you for growing your own veggies.

  14. Boy! I will have to try that recipe – it sounds delicious. As a confirmed “city girl” your and the books description make me consider that there is an alternative.

  15. I love a good book and I love food…this could be just perfect.

  16. Jennifer Williams on August 18, 2014 at 6:12 pm said:

    I will be becoming a farmer soon so to speak, I can not wait. I will have to check out this book and see what I can learn from it – trying new foods is always fun.

    • hbludman on August 18, 2014 at 7:35 pm said:

      Oh wow! You will have to keep me posted on that, Jennifer. And you don’t mind if I come visit, right?

  17. Lady Helene on a farm, huh? Were you planning on wearing your tiara while you milked the cows? I’d love to see that. But I know what you mean about living on a farm. If only we had 9 lives…

    This book sounds wonderful, and the recipes sound divine. I definitely want to read it! BTW, I want to be Ethel to your Lucy because you are such a great cook/baker (your rolls look scrumptious) and since I don’t cook I’ll bring you flowers and fresh orange juice for breakfast. Sound good?

    • hbludman on August 18, 2014 at 7:36 pm said:

      It sounds great! And a tiara would be quite the look while doing farm chores. 😉

  18. Sounds like an excellent book! I haven’t heard of Burnt Toast before now. It was nice to find such a good review of the book, now I can buy with confidence.

  19. What a fantastic name for a book, it didn’t half make me smile – the rolls sound delicious, if only there was sniff-a-blogs. x

  20. I didn’t want to be a farmer, but I did (and still do, in my dreams) want to live on a farm. In fact, we came very close to buying a “farm style” property when we found the house we are in now. What helped finalize our decision was my (then) 7 year old daughter. She had been riding horses since she was 4 and we required she be responsible for their full care, including breaking through the ice when the water trough froze over. She quickly learned she really didn’t want to be a full time “horse mommy.”

    We settled on a house with a farmer neighbor. I can hear the sounds of the cows, horses, goats, chickens and rooster over the fence, but I don’t have to do the chores. 🙂

    The book sounds like great fun!

  21. Growing up in Detroit, the last thing I wanted to ever become was a farmer. And I still feel that way! A great evocative review of a book that I probably wouldn’t much enjoy, since I still have zero interest in farming and have never been much of a foodie.

    • hbludman on August 19, 2014 at 8:45 am said:

      This farm was in Michigan, Roz, but I guess it was nowhere near Detroit!

  22. Sounds like a good book. Would love to check it out for sure.

  23. I always wanted to live on a farm too! This sounds like a great cookbook!

  24. Chrissy on August 18, 2014 at 11:08 pm said:

    It looks like a great book, thanks for sharing!

  25. I always love learning about new cookbooks. They are one of my guilty pleasures. This sounds like one I need to add to my collection. Your rolls sound amazing!

  26. Sounds like a great book. I’m a foodie so I think this would match with me 😛

  27. Oh this sounds so good! I am a city girl with dreams of the country {part time} too. I also love to cook so bonus. Thanks!

  28. This sounds like a great book! I love that there are recipes too!

  29. Sounds like a really nice book with very yummy recipe’s to add, too!

  30. hbludman on August 19, 2014 at 8:44 am said:

    Yes, it is a quick recipe and easy to throw together at the last minute.

  31. hbludman on August 19, 2014 at 8:45 am said:

    Thanks for your comment, LL!

  32. Looks like a really good book! I love food so it’s totally up my alley! I’m always on the hunt for new recipes to try!

  33. I love your reviews, Helene. Your opening made me smile. 😀

    My parents flirted with Minnesota farming when I was 7-10 or so. I say flirting because they bought 80 acres, some horses, cows and chickens, then planted soy beans. Incredibly hard work… and not too rewarding when you butcher the cow and have seven kids sitting around the table crying at dinner that we had to eat “Ben.” We soon moved to Colorado.

    • hbludman on August 20, 2014 at 8:27 am said:

      Awww … I’m so sorry you had to eat Ben. Although that did make me smile, ruefully. xo

  34. Sounds like a good book! I lived on a farm until I was 4…there are days that I still miss it!

  35. Growing up in rural Wisconsin in the 50s, 60s and 70s…I am sure I can relate to this book. I would be really interested in reading it and I will have to place this on my list.

  36. It does sound like they got quite the bounty from their gardening!! I think this book sounds great!

  37. I am not a country girl at all, but I understand what you mean about a big family.

  38. I’m a country girl and I really liked it. Living in a big city now and sometimes I really miss the farm. The books sounds like a good one! Will add it to my reading list.

    • hbludman on August 20, 2014 at 8:58 am said:

      It would be great to have both, right, Ave? Live on a farm but have access to a big city.

  39. This sounds like a fun book! I love the title! I just may get this one for my library

  40. I always wanted to be a teacher growing up. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that my aunt was a teacher and she always brought me to visit her classroom.

  41. What a great name for the book! I’m not much of a chef, but none the less looks like a great read!

  42. I love that it’s a combo of food and tales. There really is something magical about farm life.

  43. Actually sounds like a great book and I’m happy you enjoyed it since it reminded you of your days of wanting to live on a farm. I’ve always lived in the city and don’t think that living in the suburbs would have been for me, but I’m actually starting to enjoy CO.

    • hbludman on August 20, 2014 at 9:01 am said:

      I do love the city, too, but living on a farm was always a dream of mine.

  44. Funny thing, the hubby has mentioned that he would love to one day own a farm. I just sort of looked at him and did my “sure hun” look hahahah Farm life isn’t for everyone but the idea of being able to make your own food from your harvest would be something else! 🙂

  45. hbludman on August 20, 2014 at 8:56 am said:

    What could be yummier, right?

  46. hbludman on August 20, 2014 at 9:02 am said:

    Thanks, Tami!

  47. Pingback: The Only Roll You'll Need At Thanksgiving Dinner - What The Flicka?

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