U.S. chef learns lessons of life in French kitchen

Tue Jun 14, 2011 6:10am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - When Amy Finley moved to France to fulfill a long-held dream of traveling through the nation's venerable culinary regions in pursuit of vanishing traditional cuisine, she expected to learn only about food.

But she also gained valuable lessons about life that helped her recommit to a shaky marriage.

"I had very strong feelings about how can people be like this, how can they be passive about letting something as beautiful as this incredible food culture crumble," Finley, who chronicled her adventures in "How to Eat a Small Country," said in a telephone interview from her home in California.

"I realized that was because it was so wrapped up in my own feelings about my marriage, and ways that we had and hadn't protected it over time, and how we wanted to make it stronger."

A long-term cook who went to culinary school in France and married a Frenchman, with whom she had two children, Finley sent an audition tape to Food Network's "The Next Food Network Star" on a whim and ended up hosting a show called "The Gourmet Next Door," hoping to bring families closer through food.

Ironically, her burgeoning television career put strains on her own marriage, taking Finley and her husband to the brink of divorce. Eventually, in desperation, they moved to France to try to work things out.

Once there, they travelled the country, sampling fragrant bouillabaisse in Marseilles, hearty cassoulet in Carcassone, and exotic dishes such as "tripoux" -- sheep's feet braised and shredded, mixed with ham, and tied into the sheep's stomach to be slowly braised again, then sliced and fried.

The journey led to a surprising discovery: as more people opt for convenience, French home cooking may be under threat.   Continued...