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How to Eat a Small Country: A Family's…
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How to Eat a Small Country: A Family's Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal…

by Amy Finley

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Showing 5 of 5
This is a difficult book to review since it's so fragmented.

The author, Amy Finley, had a brief fling with fame when she sorta won the third season of The Next Food Network Star. Finley's troubled marriage led to her resigning from her new show The Gourmet Next Door. Interesting stuff, no?

Well none of that is in here but on the other hand the first 100 pages, more or less, are filled with annoying whining about her marriage and indirectly there's plenty of evidence here of why her insecurity led to those problems.

So why the 4-star review? When Finley isn't whining, she's a very talented writer. There's a scene in the last third of the book, where Finley finally confronts her devided loyalties between her mother and her husband Greg and she tries to harm Greg with a goat part saying:

"I...was going to hit you...in the face!"

That line followed the internal thought "...now I'm going to beat Greg down with a goat chop"

You're going to have to read the book to find out if she went through with the plan, but believe me, Greg didn't deserve it but the mother probably did.

In any case, if you like books about marital woes, you'll enjoy the first third of this book, the rest of the book is a nice travelogue about the Finley family's travels through France while sampling the food and wine. It's a testament to Finley's skill with words that I managed to read through that first part and was rewarded with the rest.

One odd thing, the book starts with a scene in France where Finley isn't willing to kill a rabbit for dinner. The cover of the book has a small stylized rabbit in the bottom left corner with X-ed out eyes referring to that scene. I thought that was a cute touch. ( )
  dketelsen | Jul 19, 2012 |
Woman chooses family over fame & fortune. The story behind her decision, and what happened after she left the glare of reality TV behind. ( )
  jre503 | Jun 26, 2012 |
Somehow, I’m not hungry.

Being an obvious “foodie” along with my family, I thought this book about a couple’s journey, eating their way through France, looked pretty good. The author writes in a conversational, enjoyable way, and she’s up on her history-noting the significance of many of the sites she visits, both historically and culturally.

But…the book begins with a seriously disturbing “execution” of a rabbit for supper. I’m sure it’s supposed to introduce us to the dark humor and make the story feel authentic, but it is really disturbing. The idea of the couple’s children rolling on the ground laughing and pretending to be the dying rabbit is not really appealing. It’s a strange place for the book to jump off from, but it does get better. It proceeds into the story of the woman and her husband, who make the trip to France to restore their marriage after a rough patch. She had won a contest on Food Network and even got her own show, but he was uncomfortable with her being on television and away from home. No, he’s not a Neanderthal, but there is definitely some passive-aggressive stuff going on in their marriage that I’m not sure France will sort out.

Essentially, she signed on for the contest because she was unhappy as a stay-at-home mom, but he was unsupportive when it meant her being in New York while the family was in San Diego. She acknowledges to her son that she wasn’t happy in NY either, and that’s why she gave up the show. That’s fine…it’s not my business anyway, and if that makes them happy, great. But then she goes into her husband being uncomfortable with her “fame” and how deeply wounded she felt by all the bloggers and media talking about her and commenting on her appearance. I had to stop and look at the cover again: I had never heard about her. I’m guessing that’s possibly because I don’t watch Food Network, but it could be that there are just more important issues in the world. The idea that her concept of fame endangered their marriage seems a bit silly-she’s not Posh Spice or Beyonce.

She is a very good writer, and she makes many of the cities they visit sound wonderful. But two other things are annoying: one is that while they profess being on a budget, their entire trip is centered on locating what she admits are expensive delicacies and wines. You can’t play broke and spend $120 Euros on lunch…all while staying in various locations in France. It’s not a cheap trip, you know? So in some paragraphs she whines about finances and it’s hard to summon the sympathy. I really do like her style-she’s very open and funny. She’s quick to make jokes at her own expense, and she’s clearly a devoted mom. But since she makes her marriage a main basis of the story, I feel like some comment needs to be made on their relationship. Both of them are scorekeepers, and while they may iron things out for awhile, such doesn’t bode well for long term. Until they both stop keeping track of who did what, they’re going to need many more trips to France.

Secondly, unless she assumes her English readers are incredibly knowledgeable about French cooking, she might have explained things better. What is choucroute? Boudin noir? Unfortunately, given my public school education, the most exotic food dish I speak of is Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden. (Actually no, but you get my point). Then there’s the idea of her lovely family sitting down at a restaurant for baby calf’s head. Seriously? Does she read to these kids? How do you get past the cow’s head with kids that have just read Click Clack Moo? ( )
1 vote BlackSheepDances | May 19, 2011 |
This book can be summarizes in the three letter text abbreviation, "TMI" (or "Too Much Information"). From the introductory pages that droned on and on about killing a rabbit to cook to the very last page, the book grew tiresome quickly. Even the descriptions of the food did little to redeem the book. The book is in need of an experienced memoir editor to hone the pages. I do admire Amy for her willingness to give up her Food Network career to save her marriage, but this book did not do a very good job of describing how that was done. Instead we are offered short episodes that usually center around a meal they had in France. There are no recipes included -- a glaring omission in a book written by a chef discussing food and cuisine. This book was received through Goodreads' First Reads program for review. ( )
  thornton37814 | Apr 22, 2011 |
It did -- briefly -- inspire me to eat like a foodie... then I had a peanut butter sandwich. Back to reality! ( )
  picardyrose | Apr 15, 2011 |
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Amy Finley explains her decision to leave her growing Food Network television career in order to move to France with her family and work out the problems in her marriage that began when she won a contest that put her on the path to becominga celebrity chef.… (more)

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