Thursday, June 2, 2016

"Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good"... The Roundup

It's time to roundup the entries for April/May's Cook the Books selection, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir with Recipes from an American Family by Kathleen Flinn. (Here's the announcement post with a summary of the book and why I picked it in case you missed it.)  

Overall, this book and its many recipes proved to be pretty popular with most of the group--but even if it wasn't a favorite for everyone, it still managed to conjure up some wonderful memories of family and growing up, and it inspired some delicious homey, comfort food dishes. Here is the roundup with some thoughts on the book and on the dishes that everyone made. For more details and some terrific recipes, click on the links to go visit the respective posts. (Have some napkins at the ready to wipe away the drool!) 

Amy of Amy's Cooking Adventures was our first entry for this round, saying, "This was a slow, meandering story, intertwining the food and stories from her family. It almost felt like going home for a family reunion! ...The memoir follows Kathleen Flinn’s family through several generations with stories, anecdotes and recipes. I loved this book! I also grew up in the Midwest (though a different part than the author), so I was able to relate to her and her history. Plus the recipes all sounded amazing and (again) many of them were foods I also grew up eating (with a few variations)." Amy found herself very intrigued by the Beef Stew Served With Egg Noodles from the book. Visit her post to see what she thought about the stew and the unusual noodle pairing! 

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm was next and said, "This funny and poignant memoir takes place in my home state of Michigan during the same era in which I was raised so many of our memories are similar if not exact." Wendy made Fried Smelt and remembered times in the kitchen with her mom, saying, "One of Kathleen's memories that I also shared was of smelt dipping. Each spring my Pops would go smelt fishing and bring home bucket loads of the tiny little fish.  My Mom and I would pour them into the sink, grab her scissors and start cleaning. There isn't much to cleaning smelt, cut off their heads, snip across their belly and rinse. No removing scales, no cutting into fillets, no deboning...heck you don't even remove the tails. You simply dredge the entire thing in seasoned flour and fry them to a crisp. Soooooooooooo delicious and even more special this year because they remind me of spending time with a wonderful lady."

Cathy of Delaware Girl Eats said, "I recognized many stories of Midwest life from my growing-up days. Even though the memoir takes place on a farm in Michigan rather than the suburbs of Northeast Ohio where I lived, the book by Kathleen Flinn perfectly catches the stories of that era of self-reliant life." Although she found the author's other books more evocative, Cathy enjoyed the many recipes like Midwest Beef & Beans Chili, saying, "I particularly liked her comment that chili, which I love, was exotic in her growing up era. She highlights her grandfather Charles’ recipe included a quote from her four-year old brother Mike from that time saying in response to his grandfather’s question “Is it too spicy for you?”. To which he replied, “I like it. It tastes like firecrackers.” While the recipe needn’t be prepared so hot, it benefits from all the bean varieties that her grandpa included..."

CTB co-host Simona of briciole couldn't quite relate to Flinn's stories saying, "I can see how American readers may enjoy her stories and recipes. I grew up in Italy in a family that had nothing in common with Flinn's family. It was interesting to notice how much her experiences differed from mine." Simona did find inspiration for her Gluten-Free Seeded Crackers from the picture on the book's hardcover edition, “Below the title, there is a car with parents in front and five children in the back. Though our car was very different, it reminded me of my family car trips—mostly visits to family members or, in the summer, to the seaside, no camping trips. Sometimes my mother would carry a box of Ritz crackers in the car: both my brother and I loved them. Having very low carbohydrates as requirement for what I prepare these days made me scan various recipes for seed crackers. Using only seeds sounded fascinating: it works beautifully."

Terri of Our Good Life loved the book and said, “This family history is "peppered" with memories and family favorite recipes. What I loved about this book is that it did for me what comfort foods do: it put me in a wonderful place, feeling good from tip to toe. If there is such a genre of comfort books, this would be in it! Her parents were such a steady influence on her and her siblings. As a midwestern girl myself, I could easily place myself in her setting.  Canning, making do, stretching, eating what was in season was the same pattern in my family. My grandmothers were excellent cooks and took advantage of when there was plenty. There were belly laughs and tears in this bookI chose to recreate Ms. Flinn's Farmers Eggs recipes because, as she said, every family had their version. She was right and here is ours…”

CTB co-host Claudia of Honey From Rock said, "The memoir was touching, often sad, occasionally humorous, a poignant remembrance of Flinn's childhood and some of her parents' and grandparents', with historical background, mostly taking place in Michigan, though with brief sojourns in California and Florida.  Totally making me happy to be in Hawaii. Sorry, but to be impoverished would be bad enough without freezing weather to top it all off."  Claudia took inspiration for her Perfect Pizza from when Flinn's parents worked at her uncle's San Francisco pizzeria, saying, "At that time pizza was a truly novel food for Mid-Westerners, and these people were not Italians or experienced pizza makers. Thus my food inspiration from the book came about. After years of my own pizza experiments, I have found what some (not just me) consider to be the perfect formula." Check out her post for the recipe for pizza perfection. ;-)

CTB co-host Debra of Eliot's Eats said, Burnt toast makes you sing good,” is a saying that Flinn’s grandmother would use.  It exemplifies the hardships of Flinn’s family and the practicality of a grandmother who didn’t waste anything. Flinn’s memoir is full of practical recipes (some that could be leveraged to feed an army) along with an honest telling of her family and her own formative years." Debra found her inspiration in the Grilled Cheese with Bread and Butter Pickles, saying, "When Flinn mentioned the very strange combination (and family favorite) of grilled cheese with bread and butter pickles, she definitely had my attention. ... I’m not really presenting a recipe here, but let me tell you how good these sandwiches are. I used some good sourdough bread, rubbed the outside slices with olive oil, slapped on a slab of Velveeta (yes Velveeta), and sprinkled on a good quantity of bread and butter pickles. I totally recognize that Velveeta is a artery-clogging man-made cheese-like product and definitely not a superfood, but let me tell you that ooey-gooey warm cheese will make you nostalgic for comfort food of your youth."

Finally, over at Kahakai Kitchen, Flinn has become one of my favorite food writers for her ability to no matter where the setting (Le Cordon Blue in Paris, teaching cooking classes in Seattle, or growing up in the Midwest), make me feel as though I am right in the story with her. Burnt Toast had me "feeling all the feels" while thinking of my own family and formative years. I made a vegan, slow cooker version of the "All-Afternoon Bean Soup"-- the first meal Flinn's mother made when the family moved from California to the farm in Michigan. I added mixed greens and fennel to the mix and to support frugality, I used carrot tops and fennel fronds to make pesto to top my soup. The soup had great flavor on its own and the pesto (was fabulous and) elevated the soup with its bright taste

Thanks to everyone who joined me for this CTB round. I enjoyed hearing what you thought of the book, some of your family memories, and the delicious dishes that it inspired! 

If you missed out on this round and like books, food, and foodie books, consider joining us for June/July when my fellow Hawaiian-Island dweller, Claudia of Honey from Rock will be hosting with the novel Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy. Hope you join us! 




Simona Carini said...

What a spread! Thank you Deb for choosing an inspiring book and thank you all for your great contributions. I'll read all the posts shortly.

Claudia said...

A great round-up of dishes Deb. Thanks for pulling everything together.

A Day in the Life on the Farm said...

Isn't it nice to choose a book that is so well liked by most in the group. What wonderful recipes were inspired by Kathleen.

Deb in Hawaii said...

Thank you ladies! I think this one was of my favorite roundups--to get to read about our group's growing up memories, partnered with great comfort food. ;-)

Debra Eliotseats said...

Thanks again, Deb. It was interesting to see all the connections that were made with Flinn's family lore and each of our own nostalgic memories.