The latest ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) this pedometer geek read was Isabel Vincent’s Dinner with Edward. Received as a Goodreads First Reads giveaway, it is the story of an unexpected friendship between Edward, a nonagenarian man and Isabel Vincent, a younger woman. This is the extended review.
Dinner with Edward
by Isabel Vincent
Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hills, 2016
a division of Workman Publishing
To preface this review, this reader will admit that I am not a big foodie. I am not into gourmet cooking, nor am I much of a cook at all. Fortunately, my husband does most of the dinner (meal) cooking, but I digress.
Having said that, this memoir of an unexpected friendship between two people (ninety year old plus Edward and soon-to-be-divorced Isabel) is absolutely delightful and full of food references. Savory and rich with both menus and advice, the story unfolds as the two get together weekly during a time beginning when both are at low points in their lives.
For Edward, it is the recent loss of his dear wife Paula; for Isabel, it is ostensibly his daughter Valerie’s request that Isabel have dinner with him to bridge a loneliness gap for her father (and by extension, herself). Quickly, the pair become good friends, supporting each other in the shared enjoyment of Edward’s gourmet (and not-so-gourmet) meals. From martinis and other specialty drinks to appetizers to entrees to desserts to wine, Edward prepares a feast for the stomach and soul.
Each chapter begins with the menu, but it evolves into conversations of food preparation, life’s challenges, philosophies, and joys. While the book could be consumed in a day, this reader purposely didn’t, savoring each and every chapter, each and every culinary delight. Yet, to say it is all about the dinners is a misnomer because there is so much more to the story. In fact, my recommendation is to read it slowly, savor it chapter by chapter to taste it all. The story allows the reader to experience all the different tastes including umami.
While I will never be the foodie that Edward is (and to quote page 7, “Edward was neither a snob nor an insufferable foodie. He just liked to do things properly.”), nor the cook that Isabel becomes, there are many tips and tricks included, recipes to consider making, his handwritten letters, and things I knew nothing about until now.
In addition to this, there is also the intimacy of their camaraderie and loving friendship over time. Moreover Isabel eventually finds a love as worthy as Edward’s and Paula’s. His story of love, her growth as a person, their sorrows…the love, the nourishment, the joy all come together as a heartwarming read.
A favorite quote: “Edward had nourished me with more than just food. Yes, he had made magnificent feasts and even plain meals, and I remember each of them still so vividly because every dinner with Edward sustained me ‘truly against the hungers of the world,’ as M.F.K. Fisher wrote.” (page 211)