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Michigan writer shares family history with recipes spanning three generations

Oct 13, 2014

Flinn kids with Diane in the farmhouse kitchen
Credit Kathleen Flinn

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good is the beguiling title of the latest book from writer Kathleen Flinn.

It's billed as "A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family".

The Midwest Flinn writes about is largely the family farm near Flint, in Davison.

The Flinns and good food seemed to go together: where you find one, you'd find the other.

The book is a wonderful, loving story of a Michigan family, and you get recipes, lots of great recipes. Just what one would expect from the author of The Sharper Your KnifeThe Less You Cry and The Kitchen Counter Cooking School.

Flinn says the book title "Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good" refers to her grandmother who would accidentally burn her toasts in the oven. 

"She would give it out to small kids because she wouldn't waste it, either. So she would make up stuff. Among her most famous ones was: Oh, eat the burnt toast, because that makes you sing good. I mean, everybody knows that!"

Recipe: "Candy Girl" Moist Oatmeal Cookies

Makes 1 dozen large cookies or 20 small ones, depending on how you shape them

   2 cups (360 g) raisins

   1 cup (250 ml) water

   1/2 pound (225 g) unsalted butter

   2 cups (400 g) sugar

   2 teaspoons (10 ml) ground cinnamon

   1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt

   4 large eggs, beaten

   3 cups (285 g) old-fashioned oatmeal

   3 cups (420 g) all-purpose flour

   2 teaspoons (10 ml) baking soda

   1 cup (100 g) chopped walnuts (optional)

Put the raisins and water in a large skillet. Cook slowly over low heat until tender, about 15 minutes. 

Remove the raisins from the heat. Add the butter and let it melt through. Add the sugar, cinnamon, and salt and mix thoroughly. It will be a thick-liquid. Cool to lukewarm.

While the raisin mixture is cooling, preheat the oven to to 350°F (177°C). Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick silicone liner. (If you make large cookies, you may need to do 2 batches.)

Add the eggs to the raisin mixture. Mix the oatmeal, flour, and baking soda in a large bowl until well blended. Add to the raisin mixture. Blend well. Stir in the walnuts if using.

Drop by teaspoonfuls for small cookies or use a tablespoon for larger cookies, leaving about 1/2 inch between spoonfuls as the cookies will spread during baking.

Bake according to cookie size, about 10 minutes for small ones and up to 18 minutes for larger ones. Let cool briefly before serving. Store in airtight container.

*Listen to our conversation with Kathleen Flinn today on Stateside at 3 pm. We'll post the audio around 4:30 pm.