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Dinner with Edward

Isabel Vincent’s new book is food for thought

Created date

October 24th, 2016
Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent

There is a longstanding tradition of books about the passing of wisdom from one generation to the next. At the top of the list, Tuesdays With Morrie is probably the most widely read example of that particular genre. 

The newest entry on the shelf is Dinner With Edward: A Story of Unexpected Friendship by Isabel Vincent (Algonquin Books), author of Gilded Lily: Lily Safra: The Making of One of the World’s Wealthiest Widows. It’s like Tuesdays With Morrie, with a twist. A real twist, that is. The kind you might use to garnish a perfectly chilled martini. 

Newly widowed, nonagenarian Edward is heartbroken after the passing of his beloved wife. Not only was she the love of his life, she was also the person with whom he shared his passion for fine wine and gourmet food. Cooking for one leaves Edward feeling lower than a fallen soufflé. 

Unlikely dinner companions

His daughter introduces him to her friend Isabel, a reporter in her 40s, who is also going through a tough time. In Isabel’s case, it’s the unraveling of her marriage. Edward invites Isabel to dinner. Over pastis cocktails and dry muscadet wine, they connect—each filling a vital need for the other. For Edward, it’s being able to prepare an exquisite meal for someone who appreciates his skill in the kitchen. For Isabel, it’s having someone who cares enough to listen and knows enough to steer her in the right direction. 

They hit it off and enjoy many mouthwatering dinners over the course of the book. In other words, Dinner With Edward is Tuesdays With Morrie for foodies. Each chapter starts with the menu for a meal shared by the unlikely companions. In chapter two, Isabel and Edward dine on flounder, poached in vermouth with sauce fumet, pommes de terre sarladaises, baby spinach and avocado salad, apricot soufflés, martinis, and Vouvray. Yes, this book will absolutely make your mouth water. 

Their conversations help bring Edward out of the doldrums and provide a wealth of life lessons for Isabel. She learns to trust her instincts and demand the best for herself. She also learns a thing or two about cooking. Reflecting on the time spent with Edward, she says, “I would eventually learn to follow Edward’s recipes with a heightened degree of precision, whether they were instructions for the preparation of food or for life.”

The food metaphors are bountiful here. And at some point, I started to wonder how much money Edward must have spent on all those fancy ingredients, but overall, it was a quick, enjoyable read. My one criticism is that while Vincent goes into great detail about the menus, the various cooking techniques and ingredients, there are no recipes. This book begs for an appendix with at least a few of Edward’s creations. Perhaps a companion cookbook is in the works. I’d love the recipe for Edward’s chocolate soufflé.

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