- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Clarkson Potter (March 29, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307591387
- ISBN-13: 978-0307591388
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 59 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,381,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How to Eat a Small Country: A Family's Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal at a Time Hardcover – March 29, 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.”
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 Appétit. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband and their children.
Top customer reviews
If, on the other hand, you can stomach (and preferably, appreciate) some societal and personal introspection, and you are curious about food and France and what makes people and relationships tick (or not), this book is for you.
Another warning: don't go in expecting this book to fall neatly into one of the categories of books you already know. It is part memoir, part travelogue, part culinary history, part food porn, part social commentary. It gives enough of each to satisfy someone who is only interested in that aspect, but you will be in heaven if two or more of these subjects interest you. In particular, the detailed descriptions of French dishes (how they came about, how they're made, what they taste like) will make you swear you can smell and taste each and every one. And the sometimes painful examinations of Amy's evolving relationships with her husband and family will feel all too familiar to anyone who is human (human and not in denial, that is).
On that second topic, the fact that Amy writes MORE honestly about her feelings than most are capable of doing may make the less perceptive among us conclude that she is somehow MORE selfish, MORE self-doubting, LESS mature than the rest of us; or that her husband is MORE antiquated, her children MORE spoiled. On the contrary, the fact that she faces these issues down so honestly (and that she is even able to honestly talk about those times when she DOESN'T face them) probably means when all is said and done she and her family will be better off and more well-adjusted than the average person/family who pretends to be perfect all the time. Good for her!
This book will certainly bring out strong opinions and emotions in you--both good and bad--about food, about France, about Amy, about Greg (her husband), about parenting, about work/family balance, about marriage. That's what art is supposed to do (or at least that used to be the case). And yes, I'm saying this book is a work of art.
I found the monologue about the author's family issues to be superfluous to the real content and crunch of the storyline. In most cases I could do without the descriptions of the children's less then perfect appearances or them knocking dejectedly on the neighbors door looking for playmates. I also felt that the author promoted a much more mature vocabulary to children of their age and that may have been part of the difficulty in digesting those sections of this book brimming with so many tasty morsels.
There are two distinct times that the relationship with her children grounded her story in a meaningful manner. The first was when she and her son Indy just went off on what started as a miserable day and found joy in simple pleasures. Hasn't every parent captured a moment such as that? It becomes relatable. The second was the time that Scarlett, her daughter, went missing. That fear, that overpowering feeling of failure at the very concrete of your existence is something that parents can easily swap out their own experiences for. We have all lost that little hand from ours in the mere blink of an eye.
The author's relationship with her husband appears to be complex and I don't feel that she gave the readers enough information to formulate an opinion one way or another. Too many variables are behind heavy drapes and those that only have gossamer coverings still only show shadows of what is an obviously variegated relationship between two individuals struggling to maintain the oneness that once seemed full of promise.
If you were looking for a love story, you will be disappointed although there are hints at the end that love conquers the dirty "d" word. If you were looking for a story that is relatable because of its quirky familiarity to your own family, I am afraid that is going to be missing.
What makes this book such a clear success and pulls the reader in is the descriptions of food. Food becomes the lover, the family, the friend, the foe. It becomes the mountain to climb; making mayonaise brings about the same satisfaction as climbing the rocky path to the waterfall at the end of their travels.
It fascinated me as an audience of one to travel from region to region in pursuit of the culinary specialities that are only found in specific territories. I will never eat beheaded frogs, chicken feet, unmentionable swine parts, rabbits or calves heads. These are foods that I have categorized with venison or bison or blue fish or duck - no interest in them and cannot imagine finding enough joy in preparation or eating for them to be on my list of must have foods. There are so many other more personally appealing options out there. None of the reasons that I won't have anything to do with these are due to her artful descriptions; painting a canvas so that the audience can sit and actually appreciate the scents that she has experienced and the cacophony of taste-buds exploring and appreciating and finding a special sweet spot just for a particular dish. I never knew the process of making escargot and now that I do, it changes nothing in making me anticipate the next time in my life that garlic snail butter meets my mouth. If anything, it makes me miss those minxes even more.
I was lulled into such a lush love affair with her description of cheeses that I found myself abjectly disappointed when a descriptions would end before I was ready to let it go.
My personal favorite descriptions of meals were the simplest ones. The first being the fondu. Fondu pots just trying to edge their ways back into American kitchens, we are not overly bombarded by cubes of bread dipped into the perfect blend of cheese and wine and then dipped again into fresh cracked pepper. As a novelty right now, I can only hope it does not lend itself to pre-packaged fondu mixes that will take away the whole essence of what the true intent of the dish may be; because true intent is, of course, in the mind of the chef. The other meal that resonated with me was the simple butter and mushroom dinner that was a treat found from the very grounds that had been foe and folly during their stay.
This book was electrifying and could easily be used as a recommended read by the French tourism bureau. Food and France have always seemed to have a special link in my mind; an association picked up from snippets of conversations, items I have read and the esteemed Julia Child.
This is not Julia Child's France. Nor is this another version of the same cadence as Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love"; which I also gobbled up trying to remember my manners to at least wipe my lips on whatever napkin might be available while I salivated over new discoveries.
Well worth the time it takes to digest.