Giveaway



                               

burnt toat“I don’t have to tell you I love you. I fed you pancakes,” said the grandmother of author Kathleen Flinn, and that philosophy sums up much of this tribute to the author’s family, a hardy collection of no-nonsense hard-working people who express their love through food as often as not. There’s her maternal grandfather, who cooked a large pot of chili for all the neighbourhood kids every Saturday, seasoned with chilies and made with beans that he grew himself every summer and carefully dried for the long winter months, and her maternal grandmother, who spent a week cooking nonstop for the family at a lake cabin, making cinnamon rolls and vats of coleslaw and baked beans and pulled pork, and then told her daughter it was the best vacation she’d ever had.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good offer a delightful look at 3 generations of family, growing up in the Depression, moving out to California and then moving back, trying their hands at clowning or streaking, vacations in Minnesota and vacations in Florida, all the ins and outs of life in America over the span of most of the 20th century. Kathleen Flinn grew up to be a professional chef and chronicled her adventures in The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry and The Kitchen Counter Cooking School (linked to my review). But in her third book, she returns to look at her roots, at the people who made and shaped her, and at their own influences, joys and sorrows. Additionally, each chapter ends with a recipe to something referenced in that chapter, from pan-fried mushrooms that her terminally-ill aunt sat up and ate, to the chili that her grandfather fed the neighbour kids every Saturday. And through it all, she shows us again and again the connection between food and community, and the love that shines through the simple acts of feeding a family.

One of my favorite stories came in the first chapter. Her parents, married in the 50s, tasted an incredible new food called pizza in a local restaurant. So they were excited to discover a pizza kit from Chef Boyardee in the local grocery store. The box contained “all the ingredients for a Sicilian-style pizza” which meant “a package of add-water-only pizza dough, a small can of tomato sauce, and a packet of dried Parmesan cheese…They found it lacking compared to the one they’d had at the pizza parlour.” Yet they invited family over to share this new experience. “What’s this called again? Pizza?” said the author’s Uncle Bob. “I can’t see this catching on.” The recipe for this chapter is Uncle Clarence’s Oven-Fried Chicken. (p 12-13)

There are stories of the time Flinn’s parents bought 250 chicks and soon found themselves overwhelmed. Stories of vacations spent fishing on a lake, or the time her parents went on vacation to Florida and bought a vacation home on a whim, even though they had to rent out most of it to make the mortgage payments. There’s her older brother streaking through the movie theatre in 1974, her older sister working as a clown, and other family tales, all rendered with affection and plenty of stories of food. There’s the time, desperate for company, she joins a church choir. “‘Where’d you get that voice?’ she (the choir director) asked, sitting on the bench behind the church organ. ‘You sing very well, my dear.’ I answered as honestly as I could. ‘My grandmother told me as a kid that if I ate burnt toast, I’d be able to sing good.’ ‘Well I guess she was right,” Grace said, sitting up to organize some sheet music.” (p 231)

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good is an enjoyable look at the bonds that tie us to family, and the important role that food plays in that. I have my own versions of these stories–the scones and roasts and hot cross buns made by my British mother, the German recipes she attempted in order to delight my Mennonite-raised father. This book offers something for us all, and the recipes just add to the charm. I haven’t tried any yet, but I plan to do so soon.

Kathleen Flinn’s ancestors raised her to be tough, passionate, and endlessly optimistic–and to love good food cooked well and with love. And her loving memoir to her family is something that we can all relate to and enjoy.

Enter to Win

One of you (U.S. only) can win a copy of the book. Please follow the instructions below to earn one or more entries, starting off by leaving a comment sharing your favorite family dinner.



                               

This post may contain affiliate links. When you use them, you support this site. Thank you!
See our Disclosure Policy for details.

Feast for Thieves, #Giveaway

Read the full article →
 


                                       

Desire Lines #Giveaway

When I think back to high school, the memories that stand out the strongest all revolve around my small group of close friends. As a teenager, they were my world, and though we all live in different areas now and only “see” each other online, they’ll always hold a very special place in my heart. The novel Desire Lines by Christina Baker Kline incorporates this idea into a story with a mystery at its heart and a compelling tale of self-discovery. After a short-lived marriage and a career that was never fully developed, Kathryn doesn’t know what to do next. Until she can figure out where she wants to be and what she wants to do, she returns to her hometown in Maine to stay with her
Read the full article →
 


                                       

An Unwilling Accomplice #Giveaway

When WWI-era nurse Bess Crawford is specifically requested by a wounded soldier to attend his reception with the King, she is surprised, as she doesn’t remember the man at all. However, duty calls, and Bess obediently complies. The wounded man is being awarded for bravery, but his injuries necessitate a nursing sister’s care and that lasts during an evening at nearby hotel. In the morning, an orderly comes to escort him to his train, and he’s to be returned to the Front. But sometime during the night, he disappears. As a result, Bess’ own loyalty is called into question, and she faces being fired in disgrace as she is viewed as complicit in his escape. Bess is not one to take this lying down, and
Read the full article →
 


                                       

Season of the Dragonflies #Giveaway

The magical realism genre has become more popular recently, and I for one am loving it.  I am impressed and a bit in awe of authors who can come up with a premise and make it seem plausible in a world where facts and hard evidence rule. Sarah Creech is a new author who is following in the footsteps of Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman with her first book, Season of the Dragonflies, about a special flower and a family of women who make a perfume that enhances natural talent. For my full review and to enter the giveaway, click over to 5 Minutes for Mom.
Read the full article →
 


                                       

Dreamworks Press Dragons mobile story app #Giveaway

Disclosure: I received a complimentary app to review and other promotional consideration for this campaign. My son Kyle has read a heckuva lot less this summer than he has in years past. There are many reasons for that, and if I cared more, I’d do something about it. I know that once we get back into the routine of school, he’ll be back to consuming novels at a rapid pace. Last year he had the most AR points of any 4th grader, so there’s that…. He’s just so drawn to those handheld (and desktop) computer devices. That’s why I was excited to try out the new app from DreamWorks press, which combines reading with a familiar app experience. Ultimately, he decided he’s a bit too
Read the full article →
 


                                       

The Yankee Club #Giveaway

Detective novels aren’t usually my thing, I read them once in a while but they’re on the bottom of my list of preferred genres.  But The Yankee Club takes place in NYC near the end of Prohibition, so the setting what was what interested me in this book. Detective-turned-novelist Jake Donovan has returned to New York for the first time since he left his sweetheart, Laura Wilson, when she turned down his marriage proposal yet again. Jake has ostensibly returned at the behest of his publisher, who wants him to finish his latest book about private detective Blackie Doyle, but it doesn’t take long for Jake to realize the real reason he’s come to New York. Only Jake finds out Laura has moved on and is engaged
Read the full article →
 


                                       

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell #Giveaway

Lisa Jewell has never disappointed me, and The House We Grew Up In is certainly no different. Jewell portrays a family full of people with flaws, but they are still likable or at least understandable in their own ways. The beginning of the novel was a little tough for me, because it was skipping around in time, featuring the life of the Bird family in the past, plus what was happening in the present with some relatively present emails from Lorelei to Jim. The flashbacks center around Easter Sunday, a holiday important to Lorelei, not for religious reasons,but for the festivities that she likes to create. One Easter something awful happens to Rhys, and it changes everyone in the family, pulling them further and further
Read the full article →