Regular readers will know that I’m not one for words like ‘charming’ and ‘delightful’ – smacks too much of tweeness for me – but when I read the pitch for Isabel Vincent’s Dinner with Edward, they immediately popped into my head. Another one was ‘Christmas’, but that’s the old bookseller in me. Vincent’s book tells the story of her friendship with the nonagenarian Edward who cooks delectable dinners for her in his New York apartment.
Vincent has recently moved to the city, taking up a position on the New York Post after years as a foreign correspondent, bringing her husband and daughter with her. Living in Toronto, far from her father, Edward’s daughter has asked Vincent to look in on him, telling her of the promise his beloved wife Paula extracted from him to continue living after her death. Intrigued and tempted by Valerie’s descriptions of her father’s culinary prowess, Vincent calls in to be met by a dapper Edward who welcomes her into an apartment filled with delicious cooking aromas. So begins what is at first a weekly dinner date, replete with an immaculately prepared cocktail followed by several courses. Edward is both a wonderful host and an accomplished cook – inventive dishes prepared from carefully selected ingredients, wine perfectly matched, jazz playing quietly in the background. These two console each other – one who has lost the love of his life, the other whose marriage is crumbling – with food, appreciation and conversation, continuing to do so over several years until their meetings grow less frequent as Vincent finds herself in love and Edward’s health inevitably begins to fail.
You’ll have realised from the first paragraph that I found this book a delight. Hard not to use the word ‘heartwarming’, another word I tend to avoid, when describing the way in which Edward and Vincent rescue each other. Her account is arranged around the meals they share, beginning each chapter pleasingly with a menu. I’m sure Edward approved – the short interview at the back of the book tells us that he lived to see the hardback edition published in the States. Vincent unfolds his, and Paula’s, stories alongside her own as Edward introduces her to his repertoire of delectable lovingly perpared delicacies.
The secret is treating family like guests and guests like family
He’s very much the urbane New Yorker, seeing Vincent as something of a project. She begins to look at life a little differently, always leaving his apartment happy no matter how difficult things have become at home or how challenging at work. A lovely book, then. Almost as soon as I started it, I was struck by what a great movie it would make. I’d go and see it for sure.
Pushkin Press: London 2019 9781911590262 223 pages Hardback