How to Eat a Small Country: A Family's Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal at a Time Hardcover – 29 Mar 2011
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"The Food Network's loss is every reader's gain: Amy Finley is a smart, funny writer and a really good traveling companion. Packed into the car with Amy, her husband and two kids, you'll see and taste France in a completely original way. Whether you know the country well or are hoping to discover it, savoring its fare with Amy is a treat."
--Dorie Greenspan, author of "Around My French Table"
"What comes first--food or family? "How to Eat a Small Country" is a delicious story by Amy Finley about balancing them both, and ultimately finding happiness in a country where family life still revolves around the dining table."
--David Lebovitz, author of "The Sweet Life in Paris"
"An unexpected and delightful memoir. How Amy Finley slipped under the wire of Food Network and into our homes is an enduring mystery, and her tale of moving to rural France to preserve her marriage and family is a great read filled with joyous bites."
""How to Eat a Small Country" shares a few key traits with Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love, " in particular an infectiously likeable narrator and mouthwatering descriptions of European food. But Finley's memoir is less precious, more honest, and ultimately more rewarding."
"From the Hardcover edition." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
About the Author
AMY FINLEY was the winner of the third season of the hit show "The Next Food Network Star. "After her win, she hosted Food Network's "The Gourmet Next Door." A Paris-trained cook and pastry chef, she was a regular contributor to "Bon AppEtit." She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband and their children.
"From the Hardcover edition." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
Top Customer Reviews
I appreciated of the author's style of writing, using humor to contrast some pretty heavy life situations. Her ability to forge forward through a marriage that others may have given up on, and to talk about it openly is admirable. Great food in some of the most scenic villages in France was a good distraction while the family discovered how make their way through some of life's obstacles. Many people dream of moving to another country and experiencing life anew, but not all of us have the opportunity to do so. Amy Finley paints a beautiful picture of a life abroad, it's ups and downs, ins and outs while pursuing her goal: eating and cooking, providing fuel for the souls of her family.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The rest of the book is centers around their living in and touring the French countryside, eating their way through the country. If you love food, you'll love all the descriptions of the different dishes and the history of many of them. I thought I was pretty adventurous as far as trying new things, but Finly definitely has me beat with some of the foods she tried (and often enjoyed) such as tete au veau (head of veal, or more accurately the face of a calf). If you love France, you will also enjoy an inside look at some of the villages and towns they toured and know which restaurants to try.
The thing I liked best about the book was that she answered the question of why she gave up her TV career with the Food Network and gave an inside view of what was going on at the time with her family. I also had to laugh at some of her descriptions of her kids as the "dirtiest and noisiest" in a village. She's very frank and open about their experiences and it was easy to relate to her writing.
Aside from the prologue where they kill and butcher one of the "adorable little bunnies" that they are raising for meals, I enjoyed the book. One has to realize, that in France, it's not unusual to find things like rabbit, goat, horse, eel and all sorts of "innards" on menus, many that we don't ordinarily eat in this country. I think the French are more adventurous than we are in their eating. It was also a reminder that our meat and poultry doesn't really grow in neat little cellophane covered packages that we buy at the grocery store and that our slaughtering houses aren't any more humane that killing that bunny, probably less so.
This book is about Amy Finley's life after she walked away from her very own show on the Food Network after winning Season 3 of the Next Food Network Star. Pressured from her husband and wanting to save her marriage, Amy quits her show and heads home to San Diego. She suggests they pack up and move to France for 6 months. Don't be mistaken: other than a couple paragraphs here and there, this book is NOT about her time on the show.
The book skips from topic to topic, jumping from family troubles to commentary on the French people and places to commentary on French cuisine. I couldn't keep up with the constant change of topic. I also couldn't keep up with the locations -publisher, could you throw a map in there somewhere? Thanks.
I don't at all understand what drives Amy. She was afraid of everything except the food. She was scared to go to France and scared to go back home. She was scared to plan family outings. She was afraid of taking her kids anyplace alone. She was also very mean. At one point Greg is choking down bouillabaisse and she's gloating that he's miserable. "It serves him right, I think." Yeesh.
The meanness and selfishness continue unabated right up to the end of the book. At one point Amy states something to the effect that "Greg didn't make me quit the show, I wanted to quit the show." Huh? Are we just supposed to believe it because she says it? I guess my high school English teacher was right that "showing not telling" is much more powerful.
And the food! Amy was willing to try everything France had to offer, including something involving calf face and brain. There was very rarely a dish that she described that had my mouth watering. In face, she didn't seem all that enthralled with the food herself. Considering she became a chef after falling in love with the food in France, I thought it was strange that I didn't fall in love with the food through this book.
Something was really niggling at my brain the whole time I was reading it: Greg didn't want to be married to a celebrity, so Amy quit her show on the Food Network, yet he's okay with a book detailing intimate details of his marriage? I really don't get that...
I gave it 3 stars because it did entertain me for a couple of days and even though it drove me crazy, I kept going back to it.
Readers wanting more detail of Amy Finley's stint as a reality show star will be disappointed. The book drops us right into France (the family is killing a rabbit that will be dinner). The details of how they ended up there emerge slowly and sketchily. Basically as told by Amy, she was searching for something to be proud of for herself, outside of her life as a stay-at-home mom, and she sent the audition tape on an impulse. Her husband Greg did not support her involvement in the competition or her hosting of the Food Network show that followed. Their marriage was in serious danger. Somehow they came up with a desperate and crazy plan to try to save it. Amy walked away from the Food Network, they packed up 5-year old Indiana and 2-year-old Scarlett and moved to France for several months because that was where Greg and Amy had lived after they first met and fell in love. The plan was to travel around France and sample the regional cuisine. Amy would cook and in the process the family would become whole again.
At its deepest heart, this is the story of a family. Amy does not stint on the details or pretty it up. They are in most ways a very average family. Their children have tantrums. Amy's relationship with her mom is a serious issue in the marriage. Amy has panic attacks. She and Greg bicker. They discuss divorce. Amy's sister visits, ostensibly to be a nanny for the children, but it's really just a way to get to Europe so she can go vagabonding and check out all the cool places.
The food writing is exquisite, it really makes you want to make the trip to try out all the dishes, even after hearing what some of them really are. (Just a sample: the very enticingly named rosette sausage is a reference to the shape of a pig's anus. Yet I still want to try it someday. Go figure.) Here too Amy does not whitewash the experience. If the food and service are uninspired, she tells it like it is. Sometimes a transcendent dining experience is more about the company or the weather than the food or the service.
Can this marriage be saved? I think so, but I don't think traveling to France is what saved it. Like most marriages that survive, it is simply strong enough to withstand the strains that are put upon it. Not the stuff of great novels, maybe, but truer than many.
Most importantly, this is Amy's story. She was a professionally trained cook. She put her career on hold to raise her children, but that's a very long process and she got antsy long before her children were raised. She tried to find something to boost her self image. She found something that sounded great on paper, but it stressed her marriage and in the end it didn't satisfy her anyway. Here is Amy's great accomplishment: she is an awesome writer. I doubt that book tours and publicity are going to be all that great for her marriage either, but I am glad she wrote this book, and I hope she writes more.
I did not read this book, however, to learn of the the turmoil in her marriage or her relationship issues with her mother. I read it to read about FOOD and Amy Finley is a MASTER of detail when it comes to describing their meals; the garlic-buttery mussels of Honfleur and the "fusty-musty" blood sausage figatellu of Corsica. But the most delicious to the reader is the description of two of their most memorable meals: first, their bouillabaisse in Marseilles; it requires the reader to use all of his senses; she details: the color..."deep russet," the scent..."smokey from the bay leaves," the taste..."sweetness of onions, spicy flavor of garlic, the licorice of fennel," the texture..."thick and smooth, like puree." The second appeal to every sense is their dinner of tete de veau (calves' head); here it is all in one of her sentences-"salty, soft, rich and mellow." Those four quoted words actually describe the writing in this book.
This is not a book that requires the reader to ONLY use eyes and brain; this book will have you sniffing and salivating, hearing sizzles, sensing sauteed intestines and looking eye-to-"lidless-eye" with eels. You will "relish" this book as I did.
I loved her show, The Gourmet Next Door and was so disappointed when it only ran one season, and had no idea why. I was so excited when I got the opportunity to review her book through Vine, but I'm sorry to say, it was a bit of a let down.
Turns out that Amy's husband wasn't happy that she was on TV and she left the show to keep her marriage together. They and they're two children moved to France (her husband is French and they met there) to see if they could rebuild their family.
Amy is a good writer. There are lot of stories about their adventures in France and they are interesting to read. What I found difficult was how it seemed like Amy was giving up something she loved because her husband was threatening to leave her if she didn't. The parts of the book about their relationship are hard to read. Amy seems very angry and her husband very petulant. If it was me, I would have dumped him. LOL
So, if you want to read some interesting vignettes about travels, and food in France you will like this book. I enjoyed those parts, but reading about where Amy went, and how her relationship was after her show, made me feel a bit sad for her. Interesting, but not what I expected.