Friends often joke that on the inside, I’m actually sixty. I laugh but they may very well be right. I do love long baths with Norah Jones playing in the background, and staying in on cool winter nights to read with a glass of wine. When I’m in need of a comfort read, I often turn to memoirs or personal essays from people older and wiser than myself. Which is how I came to read Isabel Vincent’s Dinner with Edward.
Isabel Vincent was coming into “middle-age” when she moved from Canada to New York to work for The Post. Her marriage was unraveling and she was in a rough place when a friend called and asked her if she could do her a favour. Her mother had just passed, and her father (who was in his 90’s) was devastated. Being far away from her father, this friend asked if Isabel could drop in on him every once in a while, to see that he was okay, and give him a bit of company. Thus began an unlikely and beautiful friendship.
The book is small and quiet but filled with warmth. Isabel quickly learns that Edward loves to cook, to talk and to entertain. Her visits become mini dinner parties – just the two of them, always enjoying a cocktail to start, an appetizer, a main course with a side, and a delectable dessert. Isabel begins to discover that her visits to an old widower do not just brighten his day, they illuminate hers.
I adored this book and devoured it quickly – relishing both the tale of a blossoming friendship and of New York, but also the descriptions of the joy in preparing food for another person. I immediately had the urge to cook, and to entertain. I imagined my crowded kitchen warmed by a heated oven, with my little table full of food and friends sitting around it chatting. And so, I planned it!
I made a menu, modeled after Edward’s, and my husband and I spent a few hours running around on Saturday collecting all the ingredients. I decided to try out a new cookbook that teaches you how to make delicious meals in a slow cooker – ones you wouldn’t typically expect. On Sunday morning, I woke up at 7:30am (thank you Daylight Savings!) had my coffee, cleaned my kitchen , showered, dressed and got to work. I started with putting my beets into a slow cooker, and then darted out to pick up a fresh loaf of bread. I spent the afternoon preparing – what felt like – mountains of food, and doing mountains of dishes. My husband chopped diligently while I ran around, timing everything to finish before our friends arrived.
I stopped around 2:30pm to pause and appreciate the gorgeous smell of the kitchen, the light glass of wine I sipped while I cooked, and the joy I felt in knowing I was about to serve (what I hoped would be) one kick-ass meal. I’m a twenty-something Torontonian, so typically, a nice meal with friends is at a restaurant we had to wait an hour to get into, or reserve days in advance. It felt good to eat at home.
When my friends showed up, dinner was served!
Cocktail: Asian Pear Sparklers
These were interesting to make. First, I had to make a syrup with honey, sugar, rosemary, ginger, nutmeg and pear juice. If you don’t have a juicer, this involves pureeing pears and then squeezing out the juice. After it has boiled down, you add a few tablespoons to soda water and that’s it! I was unsure about this, but my friends loved it! Recipe here.
Appetizer: Orange, Beet and Arugula Salad
This came from Ricardo’s newest slow cooker cookbook which teaches you how to use a slow cooker for things you didn’t realize you could use it for! This was a total hit. The light vinaigrette and the ricotta he puts on top were delicious. And mmmm.. peppery arugula.
Main: Sharp Cheddar Corn Chowder
This is a household favourite, from Martha Stewart’s Meatless cookbook. It is one of my absolute favourites and a total crowd-pleaser. For the meat eaters, my husband fried up his own bacon bits to sprinkle on top. YUM.
Dessert: Slow Cooker Brownies
Also from Ricardo’s book, these were pretty impressive! I was skeptical about cooking brownies in a slow cooker, but they came out so soft and moist. The recipe calls for a ton of dark chocolate, so calling them “rich” is taking it lightly. I served it with French Vanilla Ice Cream and they were gone in seconds.
Honestly, I had such a great day preparing this food for my friends, and spending time in the kitchen with my husband. I daydream of one day having a kitchen with actual counter space and a big country table to serve all the food on. So if you love food, please pick up a copy of Dinner With Edward. Then invite me over for supper. See you then!