Thursday, July 14, 2011

Amy Finley's How to Eat a Small Country ~ Reviewed

How to Eat a Small Country: A Family's Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal at a Time [Hardcover]
Amy Finley (Author)
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Clarkson Potter (March 29, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307591387

"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." -- Boston Globe

A professionally trained cook turned stay-at-home mom, Amy Finley decided on a whim to send in an audition tape for season three of The Next Food Network Star, and the impossible happened: she won. So why did she walk away from it all? A triumphant and endearing tale of family, food, and France, Amy’s story is an inspiring read for women everywhere.

While Amy was hoping to bring American families together with her simple Gourmet Next Door recipes, she ended up separating from her French husband, Greg, who didn’t want to be married to a celebrity. Amy felt betrayed. She was living a dream—or was she? She was becoming famous, cooking for people out there in TV land, in thirty minutes, on a kitchen set . . . instead of cooking and eating with her own family at home.

In a desperate effort to work things out, Amy makes the controversial decision to leave her budding television career behind and move her family to France, where she and Greg lived after they first met and fell in love. How to Eat a Small Country is Amy’s personal story of her rewarding struggle to reunite through the simple, everyday act of cooking and eating together. Meals play a central role in Amy’s new life, from meeting the bunny destined to become their classic Burgundian dinner of lapin à la moutarde to dealing with the aftermath of a bouillabaisse binge. And as she, Greg, and their two young children wend their way through rural France, they gradually reweave the fabric of their family.

At times humorous and heart-wrenching, and always captivating and delicious, How to Eat a Small Country chronicles the food-filled journey that one couple takes to stay together.


I am fascinated with unique life paths. And I'm also kind of a closet reality cooking show junky. How could I resist the chance at a complimentary advanced reader copy of How to Eat a Small Country by Amy Finley?

Amy hits the big time in cooking ... reality television style. But with the fame, and the responsibilities that go with the fame, her marriage teeters and threatens to fall apart. So she quits her blossoming career, moves her family to France and begins to work at the marriage. This memoir is kind of a grown up girl's version of a fairy tale. A wicked "witch" thwarts the knight in shining armor, the damsel-who-can-darn-well-take-care-of-herself saves him kind of a tale.

Amy Finley writes as well as she cooks. There are absolutely beautiful passages within this book. She also knows French cooking to the point that I was at times horrified when the two skills converged. I didn't really want to know why the sausage smelled like it did and how it got it's name. But the writing made it a must read anecdote and it certainly will stick with me. The French language is peppered throughout and with my four years of high school French I found myself only understanding through the context fairly often. I also struggled with some of Amy's struggles. Some of her transparency was not at all flattering. I would cringe, then admire the honesty, only to cringe again at the things she shared.

Bottom line if you love memoirs, cooking, French cooking and anything about the French countryside, you may want to pick this up and give it a read. I hope the best for Amy. Her choice was heroic. In a society where broken families are a sad consequence of success it is inspiring to see someone value family over money and fame.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

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