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How to Eat a Small Country: A Family's Pursuit of Happiness, One Meal at a Time (Anglais) Broché – 3 juillet 2012


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1

Having never been to Marseilles before, all I know about it is what I’ve gleaned from The French Connection, which I’ll admit isn’t much of a starting point.

Indy and Scarlett are bone-tired from our early-morning train trip from Brianny, dragging their feet, always three steps behind Greg and me as we roll our suitcases through the glass-and-concrete train station, which is actually both (marginally) cleaner and less seedy than I’d been led, cinematically, to expect—and with no obvious gun-toting drug dealers or strung-out hookers in sight, which is a bonus.

And so my very first impressions of Marseilles will always remain of what it actually isn’t. And as it turns out, it isn’t a lot of things.

Scarlett finally stops in her tracks. “No more walking!” she wails and throws herself face-down on the ground.

I double back and pick her up quickly, lest she contract anything nasty from the grimy tiled floor, and balance her precariously on my hip. So encumbered, together we lumber downstairs to the taxi stand, me cajoling Indy—who’s now begging Greg, of course, for a lift—the whole way.

From the taxi window, rolling through the windy streets where litter blows down the sidwalk, you can get a pretty good look at what else Marseilles isn’t.

For example, it isn’t Paris, the only French city where I’ve ever lived. There the streets are grandiose. Marseilles’s streets are, I hate to say it, plainer, narrower, a little ugly even, having been reconstructed in the 1950s after the retreating Nazis blew up most of the town. (It was high times for concrete and stucco.) And Paris is all gray and white. Somber colors, for sure, but when the sun is shining, those old stone buildings glow as if they were lit up from within, wrapped in lacy ironwork; and in the mist of a cold, wet winter, they are positively majestic. Marseilles’s buildings are all chalk-toned pastels, pale and bleached. The trees lin- ing the sidewalks are bare. We pass a bus on the road and our driver points to a grainy picture of Barack Obama plastered on its side, already looking confident and presidential on the cover of the weekly L’Express, though the election is still months away. The driver grins in the rearview mirror, flashing me a thumbs-up, the international symbol of “We like this guy.” “He’s going to win, yes?” he asks.

“We hope,” I say, but without my usual enthusiasm. Drab Marseilles just isn’t stoking my optimism at the moment.

The city isn’t the opulent, fleshy Côte d’Azur of my previous imaginings, either. For the most part, the women I see shuffling down the streets look nothing at all like Brigitte Bardot. They’re all older. Grandmotherly types in black skirts wearing flimsy plastic shoes, carrying food in colorful plastic shopping bags. I elbow Greg, dozing with Scarlett on his lap. “No bikinis,” I observe wryly.

“It’s January,” he retorts, yawning. But then looks around at the grandmothers and adds, “Thank God.”

Our travels have officially begun.

On our way to the hotel the taxi drives through Marseilles’s commercial port, swarmed with ferries and cargo ships, but it isn’t as imposing or impressive as the waterfront I remember in Genoa, another old Mediterranean city. And then we’re passing through the old town, the Vieux Port, which isn’t as crowded with wizened fishermen selling their morning catch as I’d heard it would be, either. There are just a few scrappy-looking boats, a few tourists taking pictures. “What time is it?” I ask, and Greg checks his watch. “Nine,” he answers. We’ve been on the road from Brianny for five hours—an hour to drive to the station in Montbard, four more hours on the train—and away from San Diego for seven days.

Just past the Vieux Port we finally reach the coastline, and it isn’t the string of soft, white beaches or sublime cliffs that I’d imagined, either.

And now I am officially starting to freak out.

It’s true that I have a habit of great, some might say impossible, expectations, but frankly, I have a lot riding on this trip. Because we’re not just here to buy a car, though that’s the reason we’re in Marseilles. We’re here because this is stop number one on a journey intended to save our marriage. We are recuperating from a truly awful, horrible year, and from what I think can fairly and empirically be called a betrayal. Besides some five hundred pounds in suitcases and a behemoth crate bearing Doobie, the family dog, we arrived in France a week earlier with a lot of baggage: several years’ worth of bad, marriage-toxifying relationship habits to unlearn, some wounds to lick, and two small kids who are still a little gun-shy from a year in which the big, bad d-word—divorce—has sadly been aired frequently and volubly.

But how we’re going to fix things, exactly, well . . . actually . . . I still have no idea.

But a beautiful setting would surely help, right?

So, no pressure or anything.

The taxi zips along the corniche road next to squat, narrow buildings constructed right up on the cliff’s edge, housing dive shops and pizza parlors buzzing with teenage boys. And as we fly past I can just barely make out glimmers of turquoise from the water beyond.

As we get closer to the hotel, the sidewalks are thick with strolling pedestrians: more grandmothers, the teenage boys, an awful lot of small children weaving expertly through the dense crowd on kick scooters. But amazingly, no one stands still and gawks, slack-jawed, the way I want to when there’s finally a pause in the buildings and a low sea wall and before me spreads the full beauty of the clandestine sea.

It turns out to be stunning after all.

I hadn’t even realized I was holding my breath, but when I see the water it all comes rushing out in a great big billowing sigh of relief.

2

Our car connection—the eighty-one-year-old grandmother of a friend of Marc and Sophie’s—has made us a reservation at the Hôtel le Rhul, directly across the street from the much more expensive and much more famous Petit Nice. The Nice is a modern whitewashed wedding cake right on the rocky calanque, replete with a swimming pool and on-site babysitters and a Michelin three-star restaurant and a coiffeuse. The Rhul looks like a sea captain’s turreted, balconied fantasy, especially on the inside.

In the interest of economy we are all sharing one room, and the kids, as kids will when faced with a clean hotel room, immediately jump up and down on the neatly made beds, strewing pillows and blankets willy-nilly, while I scoot our luggage into the closet. For me, I’m ready—more than ready—to touch the water. If in the taxi, my exhale was one of relief, the very next inhale was like a rush of nitrous oxide, euphoric but disorienting. I am a San Diego girl and the water, I hope, will bring everything back to normal. Considering our mission, it may even be like a baptism. Rebirth. “Okay, let’s go,” I say, ready to dash back out the door again.

But Greg, as Greg will when faced with a plethora of leaflets, is taking his time. “Just a second,” he says, happily making piles on the rumpled bed of the maps and literature requisitioned from the Algerian ladies downstairs. “Let’s get settled in first. No need to rush, right?” He rifles through the pamphets. Boat tour information: check. Map of the metro system: check. Sensing no immediate departure, the kids keep right on jumping—it looks like we’ve lived in this room for days already—so I clear my throat a few times until I finally break the leaflets’ potent spell over him.

“What?” he looks up, God love him, apparently not even noticing that Indy and Scarlett are now practically kicking down the hotel room door. It is covered in thick black skid marks from the bottoms of their shoes. Manic energy floods the room. Doobie cowers between my legs, ears flattened.

“Dad, let’s go-o-o!” Indiana whines.

“I’m ready!” I say. I grab Scarlett before she can aim another kick at the door, hoist her to my hip, and sling my purse over my other shoulder, jangling the hotel room keys enticingly.

“Oh, okay,” Greg says. “Just a second.” He digs through a suitcase, muttering, “Now, where’s Doobie’s leash?”

Lord, it seems as if it takes an eternity until he’s found it, snapped it on, and led us down the stairs and across the busy street, dodging whizzing buses and speeding scooters, and alongside the Nice to a stairway leading directly to the sea.

Scarlett flies from my arms as soon as we reach the bottom. “Let’s go!” Indiana shouts joyfully, grabbing her hand, and together they rush toward the waves that slap against the sun-bleached rocks. A moment later he doubles back and starts shedding layers of jacket, sweater, and sweatshirt, like a little Swede rejoicing on the first day of summer. “It’s hot here!” he announces in happy amazement. A pile of clothing—my own sweater included—grows quickly at my feet where I sit on a rock watching Greg skip rocks for Scarlett while Indy runs around in his T-shirt, slashing at imaginary ninjas with his plastic sword.

Slowly the knot between my shoulder blades relaxes as my fragmented, fragile calm resumes form.

During our week in Brianny, I had been so bombarded by satisfy- ing everyone’s immediate needs that I never let myself dwell on the monumentality of our move to France, no doubt why it finally all came rushing at me in the taxi. And maybe there had been an aspect of self-preservation i...

Revue de presse

“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.”
--Anthony Bourdain

“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




From the Hardcover edition.


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29 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Good book for foodies and Francophiles 3 février 2011
Par PT Cruiser - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
If you were a fan of the Food Network and watched season 3 of the The Next Food Network Star, you're probably familiar with Amy Finly, who sent in her audition tape on a whim and ended up winning the show's competition. She was awarded her own cooking show, The Gourmet Next Door, which ran six episodes after which she walked away from the show and probably a bright future with the network. The reason was that her French born husband, Greg, was uncomfortable with her becoming a TV star and being away from him and their own two children. As you can probably imagine, this wasn't an easy thing for her to wrap her head around and as their marriage faltered, she made a suggestion to her husband one night, "Let's move to France!" France was where they had met and fallen in love, and lived for a couple of years. It is also where she attended the École Gregoire-Ferrandi culinary school in Paris.

The rest of the book is centers around their living in and touring the French countryside, eating their way through the country. If you love food, you'll love all the descriptions of the different dishes and the history of many of them. I thought I was pretty adventurous as far as trying new things, but Finly definitely has me beat with some of the foods she tried (and often enjoyed) such as tete au veau (head of veal, or more accurately the face of a calf). If you love France, you will also enjoy an inside look at some of the villages and towns they toured and know which restaurants to try.

The thing I liked best about the book was that she answered the question of why she gave up her TV career with the Food Network and gave an inside view of what was going on at the time with her family. I also had to laugh at some of her descriptions of her kids as the "dirtiest and noisiest" in a village. She's very frank and open about their experiences and it was easy to relate to her writing.

Aside from the prologue where they kill and butcher one of the "adorable little bunnies" that they are raising for meals, I enjoyed the book. One has to realize, that in France, it's not unusual to find things like rabbit, goat, horse, eel and all sorts of "innards" on menus, many that we don't ordinarily eat in this country. I think the French are more adventurous than we are in their eating. It was also a reminder that our meat and poultry doesn't really grow in neat little cellophane covered packages that we buy at the grocery store and that our slaughtering houses aren't any more humane that killing that bunny, probably less so.
20 internautes sur 24 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A great accomplishment 28 février 2011
Par Rushmore - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
This genre-stretching book is part food, part travelogue, but mostly a very personal memoir of a family trying to stay together.

Readers wanting more detail of Amy Finley's stint as a reality show star will be disappointed. The book drops us right into France (the family is killing a rabbit that will be dinner). The details of how they ended up there emerge slowly and sketchily. Basically as told by Amy, she was searching for something to be proud of for herself, outside of her life as a stay-at-home mom, and she sent the audition tape on an impulse. Her husband Greg did not support her involvement in the competition or her hosting of the Food Network show that followed. Their marriage was in serious danger. Somehow they came up with a desperate and crazy plan to try to save it. Amy walked away from the Food Network, they packed up 5-year old Indiana and 2-year-old Scarlett and moved to France for several months because that was where Greg and Amy had lived after they first met and fell in love. The plan was to travel around France and sample the regional cuisine. Amy would cook and in the process the family would become whole again.

At its deepest heart, this is the story of a family. Amy does not stint on the details or pretty it up. They are in most ways a very average family. Their children have tantrums. Amy's relationship with her mom is a serious issue in the marriage. Amy has panic attacks. She and Greg bicker. They discuss divorce. Amy's sister visits, ostensibly to be a nanny for the children, but it's really just a way to get to Europe so she can go vagabonding and check out all the cool places.

The food writing is exquisite, it really makes you want to make the trip to try out all the dishes, even after hearing what some of them really are. (Just a sample: the very enticingly named rosette sausage is a reference to the shape of a pig's anus. Yet I still want to try it someday. Go figure.) Here too Amy does not whitewash the experience. If the food and service are uninspired, she tells it like it is. Sometimes a transcendent dining experience is more about the company or the weather than the food or the service.

Can this marriage be saved? I think so, but I don't think traveling to France is what saved it. Like most marriages that survive, it is simply strong enough to withstand the strains that are put upon it. Not the stuff of great novels, maybe, but truer than many.

Most importantly, this is Amy's story. She was a professionally trained cook. She put her career on hold to raise her children, but that's a very long process and she got antsy long before her children were raised. She tried to find something to boost her self image. She found something that sounded great on paper, but it stressed her marriage and in the end it didn't satisfy her anyway. Here is Amy's great accomplishment: she is an awesome writer. I doubt that book tours and publicity are going to be all that great for her marriage either, but I am glad she wrote this book, and I hope she writes more.
9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Strange, confusing, rambling, etc. 5 avril 2011
Par wiggins - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
I don't even know where to begin with this review. I'm just so confused. On the one hand, it was scattered, confusing, irritating, and disgusting. On the other hand, I couldn't stop reading! It's like watching 24/7 coverage of the latest celebrity to spiral out of control - I just couldn't look away!

This book is about Amy Finley's life after she walked away from her very own show on the Food Network after winning Season 3 of the Next Food Network Star. Pressured from her husband and wanting to save her marriage, Amy quits her show and heads home to San Diego. She suggests they pack up and move to France for 6 months. Don't be mistaken: other than a couple paragraphs here and there, this book is NOT about her time on the show.

The book skips from topic to topic, jumping from family troubles to commentary on the French people and places to commentary on French cuisine. I couldn't keep up with the constant change of topic. I also couldn't keep up with the locations -publisher, could you throw a map in there somewhere? Thanks.

I don't at all understand what drives Amy. She was afraid of everything except the food. She was scared to go to France and scared to go back home. She was scared to plan family outings. She was afraid of taking her kids anyplace alone. She was also very mean. At one point Greg is choking down bouillabaisse and she's gloating that he's miserable. "It serves him right, I think." Yeesh.

The meanness and selfishness continue unabated right up to the end of the book. At one point Amy states something to the effect that "Greg didn't make me quit the show, I wanted to quit the show." Huh? Are we just supposed to believe it because she says it? I guess my high school English teacher was right that "showing not telling" is much more powerful.

And the food! Amy was willing to try everything France had to offer, including something involving calf face and brain. There was very rarely a dish that she described that had my mouth watering. In face, she didn't seem all that enthralled with the food herself. Considering she became a chef after falling in love with the food in France, I thought it was strange that I didn't fall in love with the food through this book.

Something was really niggling at my brain the whole time I was reading it: Greg didn't want to be married to a celebrity, so Amy quit her show on the Food Network, yet he's okay with a book detailing intimate details of his marriage? I really don't get that...

I gave it 3 stars because it did entertain me for a couple of days and even though it drove me crazy, I kept going back to it.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A literary meal "well-done" 7 mai 2011
Par s.r.cohen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
In the prologue, Amy Finley describes how the bulk of her day is devoted to food. I also think about food A LOT, but mostly, I read about it. I read food magazines and memoirs of well-known chefs; I even read cookbooks. I wondered if Amy Finley's book would demonstrate an ego as big as some of the other celebrity chefs...it did not...I enjoyed her refreshing attitude that some cooking tasks were just beyond her; making mayonnaise, killing animals that were going to be dinner. This made me feel as though the only difference between Amy and I, as cooks, was her time in culinary school. I felt as if I COULD cook with her. In this, she really fulfilled the promise behind her briefly aired Food Network show,aptly named, The Gourmet Next Door.
I did not read this book, however, to learn of the the turmoil in her marriage or her relationship issues with her mother. I read it to read about FOOD and Amy Finley is a MASTER of detail when it comes to describing their meals; the garlic-buttery mussels of Honfleur and the "fusty-musty" blood sausage figatellu of Corsica. But the most delicious to the reader is the description of two of their most memorable meals: first, their bouillabaisse in Marseilles; it requires the reader to use all of his senses; she details: the color..."deep russet," the scent..."smokey from the bay leaves," the taste..."sweetness of onions, spicy flavor of garlic, the licorice of fennel," the texture..."thick and smooth, like puree." The second appeal to every sense is their dinner of tete de veau (calves' head); here it is all in one of her sentences-"salty, soft, rich and mellow." Those four quoted words actually describe the writing in this book.
This is not a book that requires the reader to ONLY use eyes and brain; this book will have you sniffing and salivating, hearing sizzles, sensing sauteed intestines and looking eye-to-"lidless-eye" with eels. You will "relish" this book as I did.
10 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Not what I expected. 24 mai 2011
Par Sheri Fogarty - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit ( De quoi s'agit-il? )
The only season I watched the show, The Next Food Network Star, was the season that Amy Finley won. I was rooting for her from the beginning. She seemed down to earth, was a great cook and is from my hometown as well.

I loved her show, The Gourmet Next Door and was so disappointed when it only ran one season, and had no idea why. I was so excited when I got the opportunity to review her book through Vine, but I'm sorry to say, it was a bit of a let down.

Turns out that Amy's husband wasn't happy that she was on TV and she left the show to keep her marriage together. They and they're two children moved to France (her husband is French and they met there) to see if they could rebuild their family.

Amy is a good writer. There are lot of stories about their adventures in France and they are interesting to read. What I found difficult was how it seemed like Amy was giving up something she loved because her husband was threatening to leave her if she didn't. The parts of the book about their relationship are hard to read. Amy seems very angry and her husband very petulant. If it was me, I would have dumped him. LOL

So, if you want to read some interesting vignettes about travels, and food in France you will like this book. I enjoyed those parts, but reading about where Amy went, and how her relationship was after her show, made me feel a bit sad for her. Interesting, but not what I expected.
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