Excerpt from Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Dinner with Edward

A Story of an Unexpected Friendship

by Isabel Vincent

Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent X
Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent
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  • First Published:
    May 2016, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2017, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Print Excerpt


"Darling!" he said. "I've been expecting you.



1

Grilled Sirloin Steak, Sauce Bourguignonne
New Potatoes
Chocolate Soufflé
Malbec

In the beginning I would invariably arrive at Edward's apartment with a bottle of wine.

"No need to bring anything, baby," he said, although I often ignored the advice, finding it difficult to show up for dinner empty-handed.

And there was no need to knock on the door or ring the doorbell, Edward told me. He always knew when I was coming because the doorman would call up to his apartment when I walked through the front doors of his building. Besides, he usually kept his door unlocked. Still, soon after we met he insisted that I have my own key, just in case the door waslocked and I wanted to drop by when he was taking his morning or afternoon naps on the couch. He gave me the key attached to a purple plastic fob. "EDWARD" and his telephone number were written in bold, block letters on the white insert in the key ring. We both knew I would never actually use the key to get into his apartment but I accepted it graciously—a gesture of friendship, a daily reminder that Edward was now part of my life.

Whenever I did bring wine, Edward would write my name on the label, tucking it into his makeshift cellar in the hall closet, where he kept winter coats. By the time I got there, he had already chosen his wines carefully for the meal and would save my offering for a more appropriate pairing.

At one early dinner I had made the mistake of bringing Edward some of the salted cod croquettes that I had cooked from my mother's recipe. I should never have expected him to serve them with our meal. I sprung the food on him without any warning. In those early days of our friendship I never imagined the amount of thought and effort that Edward put into each dinner. I knew it was a faux pas as soon as I handed over the lumpy tinfoil-wrapped bundle of croquettes, and I could see Edward was momentarily confused. But he graciously accepted my offering, inviting me to dinner later in the week so that we could enjoy them together.

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.

Edward had learned from a young age to appreciate fine food. When he was 14, after he failed his year at school, Edward's parents had sent him from their home in Nashville to spend a summer with his wealthy aunt and uncle in New Orleans. His aunt Eleanor, a teacher, was determined to instill discipline and get him back on track. But she was also determined to instruct him about French cuisine.

"I had an introduction to a world I didn't know existed," he said, recalling a meal at the legendary Antoine's in 1934. "I will never forget the first time I had soft shell crabs. They were fried in a light batter and served with hot melted butter. They were just delicious."

When he started cooking, he borrowed from Antoine's French-Creole menu, but he liked to tell me that he also appreciated the simplest things. He could still remember as a boy eating boiled cabbage, with "a gob of butter on it which elevated it to the heavens!" And he sought inspiration everywhere: He claimed that he picked up his trick for scrambled eggs from St. John.

St. John?

Excerpted from Dinner with Edward by Isabel Vincent. Copyright © 2016 by Isabel Vincent. Excerpted by permission of Algonquin Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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