“Today, in a fickle world, loyalty, especially to something like food, can seem quaint. But loyalty, I’m willing to swear … that may be the greatest treasure that we are rapidly, and to our peril, devaluing.”
Amy Finley wrote those words at the end of chapter 5 in her book, “How to Eat a Small Country: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal at a Time.” The book is about loyalty, how Amy and her husband chose loyalty to each other, their marriage and their children over all else when they moved to France after she gave up to what seemed to many the chance of a lifetime.
Amy Finley had won the third season of “The Next Food Network Star” and earned her own cooking show, “Gourmet Next Door.” Sounds like a dream, but for her it was a nightmare. Her marriage was already in trouble before the cooking competition, but her success on television threatened to end it. In “How to Eat a Small Country,” she honestly and quite rawly details the events that led up to her decision to quit the show and live for nine months in France with her family to rebuild their life.
Amy (pictured at right), her husband Greg, and their children Indy and Scarlett moved to the small village of Brianny, in Burgundy, France. They used Brianny as their home base as they traveled around the country — eating. Bouillabaisse, fromage, Charcuterie, rabbit (that they killed themselves), snails (that they caught themselves) and mushrooms (that they hunted for themselves), became therapeutic foods as Amy and Greg worked to admit their mistakes and forgive and trust each other again.
In between the story of a marriage being saved and strengthened, there’s a well-written travelogue with a bit of French cooking history thrown in and some interesting commentary on where French cooking in the homes of France seems to be heading.
Usually when I’m done reading a book about the foods and the culinary traditions of another country, I’m ready to pack my bags and head to that country. When this book ended, packing my bags wasn’t foremost in my thoughts. Amy’s stories of food are intermingled with her stories of doing the hard work of being loyal to her family. That’s the biggest take away for me from “How to Eat a Small Country” — doing the hard work to be loyal to family and friends.
The book doesn’t end with Amy saying “and we all lived happily ever after.” In fact she says in the acknowledgments that Greg went though “hell and high water with her” during the writing of the book, but that she and Greg have come out on the other side “as tasty and delicious as vichyssoise.” It seems as if the loyalty that took them to France has continued back here in the states. It’s quite inspirational.