Indulge in a decadent read this summer. Dinner with Edward will not only tease your tastebuds but will have you yearning for a friendship that will last beyond this lifetime.
Dinner with Edward became a favourite of mine the past month as I lost myself within the story. Every page had me in suspense, even if they were only describing how Edward would warm up the plates before serving.
It's beautifully written, descriptive and captivating. I couldn't put it down - and that's when you know you've been hooked. I found myself fantasising about turning simple situations into ones that were shared between Edward and Isabel.
As I learnt more about their characteristics I appreciated how brave they were to be vulnerable, honest and open. As they shared their thoughts, feelings and emotions, I was quickly prompted that life is too short not to be present.
I closed the last page, heartbroken. Edward became familiar to me - almost reminding me of my grandfather who recently passed. It was so special to relive a story that was not only Isabel's but a story that many can relate to.
Isabel Vincent is an investigative reporter with the New York Post and the author of four books. Her latest, Dinner with Edward is her memoir about love and nourishment, sorrow and joy, and about how dinner with a friend can, in the words M.F.K. Fisher, 'sustain us against the hungers of the world'.
We had the chance to chat with Vincent to talk about Edward's dishes, her passion for cooking and why she chose to write her memoir, now.
You've spent much of your career working as an investigative reporter. Why did you decide to write your memoir now? Why was the time right?
IV: I wanted to write this memoir to celebrate Edward. He had so much influence on my life at a critical moment -- when I was going through so much sadness and self-doubt. It's not the kind of thing I ever thought I would write, but when I left Edward's dinners, I immediately went home to write everything down -- the food, the music, what we spoke about. They left me feeling pure joy (not a phrase I use lightly, actually) and I just really felt this burning desire to document everything because I knew Edward would not be around for a long time. I felt the need to savor every moment although I did not get the idea to turn my experience into a book until about two years into our friendship. This came about because Edward pointed to a stack of scrap books where he had kept every letter he ever sent his wife, every birthday card and beautiful handmade menus from their Thanksgiving Day dinners. He said, "What will happen to these when I am gone." At that moment, I told him not to worry, that I would do something with them. And I did.
The timing was totally organic. Again, I wanted to make sure that Edward knew that his life had had meaning, and it did to everyone around him.
Your dinners were like rituals that tantalised the tastebuds of the reader. To this day, do you ever crave one of Edward's home-cooked dishes?
IV: Thank you. I always think of Edward when I am making his dishes, such as the apple galette or the paper-bag chicken. What I crave more than the dinners is his company, and the entire ritual of the martini, the music, the food, the warming the plates in the oven before placing the food on them. It was a whole package.
Image supplied: Author, Isabel Vincent
When you were writing your memoir, did you at times feel that as much as your were sharing your story, you were writing his?
IV: Yes, I was keen to write Edward's story. Here was an ordinary extraordinary man, and I wanted to celebrate that. He wasn't a world leader, had no more than a highschool education and had worked in a factory for most of his life, yet he was the smartest person I knew, the most elegant person I knew. To think that he was 94 and going all over Manhattan to find the right ingredients for a cassoulet and then inviting a really interesting cross section of people from his neighborhood for dinner --the Albanian refugee couple, the Czech artist, the dentist downstairs, etc.-- was just amazing.
When I told him he had changed my life, he was kind of surprised. And then he thought about it, and he said that he had wished he had told the people in his life how much they had meant to him. I really think it was important for him to know that he had touched people and that his life had mattered to someone. It mattered to a lot of people, actually. I wasn't the only one having dinner with Edward!
Did Edward ignite your passion to cook or had you always enjoyed whipping up delicious dishes in the kitchen?
IV: Edward turned me into a much more serious cook. I had always cooked but I had never made my own sourdough bread before (a three day process!) nor had I attempted a lot of the dishes he made. I am now doing everything from sous vide pork chops to my own ice creams and sorbets, using a lot of the herbs that I find in the garden. I made lavender, honey ice cream two weeks ago, and the list goes on...
What was the most unforgettable thing that Edward taught you?
IV: The most unforgettable thing Edward taught me was taking the time to have a meal with someone you love. He taught me about enjoying the moment, whether that means cooking or serving or eating. All are great pleasures.
In your own words, why should people read your memoir?
IV: I think people should read Dinner with Edward for a lot of reasons. For one thing, it is a celebration of people who are older and have a great deal to share, but are not necessarily celebrated by our culture. Another reason to read the book is to bring enjoyment to things like cooking, and shopping for food which many people look upon as chores. I never consider it a chore anymore to go to a supermarket. In fact, I was recently in France and spent my vacation eating and going to French markets. It was the most incredible vacation I have ever had. The book is the celebration of a friendship and of a city I love -- New York. I really wanted New York City to be a character in the book, and I thought of classics like Breakfast at Tiffany's as a model when I was writing. I hope I have conveyed some of that elegance for New York and for Edward that really inspired me throughout the writing process, and continues to inspire me today.
Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent is available now at all good book stores.