Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent
Nonfiction - Memoir
2016 Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Finished on November 25, 2019
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
When Isabel meets Edward, both are at a crossroads: he wants to follow his late wife to the grave, and she is ready to give up on love. Thinking she is merely helping Edward’s daughter--who lives far away and has asked her to check in on her nonagenarian dad in New York--Isabel has no idea that the man in the kitchen baking the sublime roast chicken and light-as-air apricot soufflé will end up changing her life.
As Edward and Isabel meet weekly for the glorious dinners that Edward prepares, he shares so much more than his recipes for apple galette or the perfect martini, or even his tips for deboning poultry. Edward is teaching Isabel the luxury of slowing down and taking the time to think through everything she does, to deconstruct her own life, cutting it back to the bone and examining the guts, no matter how messy that proves to be.
Dinner with Edward is a book about love and nourishment, and about how dinner with a friend can, in the words of M. F. K. Fisher, "sustain us against the hungers of the world."
It's been over three years since my blogging friend, JoAnn, of Gulfside Musing, reviewed this slim memoir (posted here) after picking it up at an independent bookstore while on vacation in Colorado. She was very thoughtful and sent me the book once she was finished, but it wasn't until a few days ago that I was finally inspired to take it down from the shelf and begin reading. (Thank you, Nonfiction November challenge!) JoAnn read the entire book on her flight home and I was able to read it in just one day, as well. I adore memoirs, particularly those with a culinary focus, and I was quickly drawn into Isabel's delightful stories about her unique friendship with Edward.
Edward was neither a snob nor an insufferable foodie. He just liked to do things properly. He cared deeply about everything he created--whether it was the furniture in his living room or his writing. He had built and upholstered all of the furniture himself and wrote out his poems and short stories in longhand, patiently rewriting each draft on unlined white paper until he felt it was good enough to be typed by one of his daughters. He treated cooking much the same way, even though he had started doing it late in life, in his seventies. "Paula cooked for fifty-two years, and one day I just told her she'd done enough work, and now it was my turn," he said.My only quibble is the lack of recipes. However, Edward states:
"It's just cooking, darling," he said, when I asked why he didn't use cookbooks. "I don't ever think of what I'm doing in terms of recipes. I just don't want to bother looking at recipes. To me, that's not cooking - being tied to a piece of paper."Ah, but I am tied to a piece of paper. I need recipes! I guess I'll have to resort to Googling the various items listed in each menu and see what I can come up with.
As with many of my favorite culinary memoirs, Dinner with Edward is not just about food, but also about life and the deep friendships and conversations shared over a delicious meal. Sure to appeal to fans of Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking and Ann Hood's Kitchen Yarns, Isabel Vincent's splendid memoir will not disappoint.
Thank you, JoAnn, for sharing this lovely little book with me. It has found a place next to my favorite memoirs and is one that I will pick up again when I am in need of a comfort read.