Title: How to Eat a Small Country: A Family’s Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal at a Time
Author: Amy Finley
Release Date: March 29, 2011
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Genre: Memoir, Non-Fiction, Travel
Source: Amazon Vine
Rating: 4 out of 5
Amy Finley, a housewife living with her husband and two children, sent an audition tape to the television show The Next Food Network Star on a whim. No one was more shocked than she when she was selected. And when she won, no one predicted that she would do just six episodes of her show before walking away from The Food Network. In her memoir, Amy tells the inside story - how her husband was less than pleased with her new celebrity career, and how she left the show and took a trip to France with her family in a last-ditch effort to save her marriage.
I watched exactly one season of the show The Next Food Network Star, and that happened to be the season that featured Amy Finley as the winner. However, I was confused when, over the course of the next year, I only saw a few episodes of her show. I figured it was some sort of ratings issue and her show had been pulled until I heard about the release of this memoir, and the fact that Amy actually walked away from The Food Network.
Over the course of this memoir, Amy and her husband, Greg, spend their time eating and drinking their way around France over the course of a few months. The descriptions of the food are exquisite, and she treats the reader to histories and anecdotes about the dishes she eats. Amy isn’t afraid to try new things, many of which would delight foodies but turn the stomach of the average American eater. I absolutely loved this part of the memoir; from the amazing food descriptions to the traveling around rural France, it was a real delight to read.
The difficulty of the book for me was with the relationship between Greg and Amy. It’s always hard in memoirs because the reader doesn’t have a comprehensive understanding of both sides of an issue, and often we are too quick to pass judgment. But in this case, I couldn’t help but severely dislike Greg. He seemed controlling and provincial, expecting Amy to stay at home with the kids and not have any sort of fulfillment of her own in terms of a career. When she tried to pursue her dream, he threatened to leave her. In the memoir, Amy tries to portray it as Greg helping her to realize that a show on the Food Network wasn’t her dream, but it seemed to me as though she gave up an amazing opportunity for a bad relationship.
Still, despite my issues with Greg and his seemingly controlling nature, I enjoyed this book. Who wouldn’t love to eat their way around a country as gastronomically cultured as France? If you’re a fan of travel or foodie memoirs (or like me, both!), then this is a great choice. Amy’s honesty and candidness with her reader, coupled with the great descriptions and details about her trip, make for a pleasurable read.