Audrey Hepburn is probably my favourite actor. I’m a bit obsessed with her. I wish I was her. So the chance to eat like her is very exciting. Luca Dotti, her son, exploits Audrey Hepburn for all she’s worth, so this book is perfect for fans. Opening his introduction with an anecdote about being “Mrs. Dotti’s son,” not Audrey’ Hepburn’s, it seems a little silly to have a whole book about looking in on the star’s secret personal life, a life peppered with stories that often involve her Hollywood career and star friends. She really just loved to stay at home, eat some pasta and chocolate cake with her sons and dogs in front of the TV, because she’s just a normal person! A normal person who’s best friends were the wives of Yul Brynner and Gary Cooper, who socialized with Gregory Peck and Robert Wagner. Here’s a snapshot of her sunbathing with Givenchy. Here’s a little story about how here Oscar was tucked away on a bookshelf because she didn’t care much about it. She only cared about pasta. But just don’t forget she had an Oscar, OK? Insert jokes about how Audrey was the Fairest Lady and how her whole life was a Roman Holiday. But she was just your typical average housewife and mom! Also a UNICEF hero. Don’t forget it!
I shouldn’t be cynical and negative, since the recipes are fun and as a fan of Audrey Hepburn I kind of love the whole thing, though as a vegetarian there isn’t too much I can try. Also I can enjoy something while seeing it as a very transparent attempt at exploiting celebrity, an attempt veined with misogyny which posits the role of housewife/mother as the most noble and desirable. But I also love pasta, and it reminds me of when I spent a year eating pasta at least once a day, which gave me a lot of time to experiment with sauces and toppings. I found that I really enjoyed a light spaghetti for lunch with garlic, olive oil, and finely chopped spinach so that it was sort of like a spinach pesto, and then a linguine with tomato sauce of mushrooms, carrots, garlic, onions, and imitation ground beef (this was when I lived in Dublin so it was Quorn brand, and that really absorbs sauce much better than anything I’ve had in Canada) for dinner. More recently, I like spaghettini (which cooks fast) or linguini (which suits this dish better) with olive oil, chopped artichokes, parmesan, and lots of pepper and perhaps a splash of red wine. Or a nice tomato sauce with olives and hot peppers. My favourite meal was, and maybe still is, pasta with a simple lettuce salad (vinaigrette is very easy to make and much tastier than anything store-bought; I started with Julia Child’s recipe and ended up with something closer to an eyeballed amount of olive oil, then equal parts dijon mustard and wine vinegar close to about a tablespoon each. Then add garlic salt and pepper to taste) and a cup of tea (I drank orange pekoe with milk and sugar); I got the idea from a Haruki Murakami short story, and ended up eating pasta every day for close to a year. It was a good idea, and I remember enjoying the story, though I feel as though I’ve outgrown Murakami somewhat. I have fond memories of his writing and his food obsessions, but the way he treats his women characters is juvenile sexism at best, violently misogynist at worst. His work perhaps merits revisiting, but whether or not I have outgrown Murakami, I can say for certain I have not outgrown spaghetti.
Back to this book, I made eight of the recipes over a few weeks.
Tricolore Caprese Salad: it’s supposed to have avocado but mine was no good and I left it out; it was still good, despite my mistake:
Peach Salad: also straying a bit from the recipe, which called for fresh mint. I could not find any and left it out. It was still good, but it’s hard to make sweet peaches bad.
Spaghetti al Pomodoro: You can find the recipe here. Mine isn’t the prettiest pasta but it is a nice, basic sauce. I left out the sugar as I found my tomatoes and carrots were both sweet enough.
Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino: It’s barely a recipe but quite tasty.
Penne alla Vodka: of all the recipes I made, this was the most disappointing. A good enough sauce, but most definitely not worth the effort. I will stick to the pomodoro.
Madeleines: I was glad that the recipe was not the traditional lemon-flavoured kind as I am not a fan of citrusy baked goods. They make for a good tea biscuit. I added a splash of vanilla which I think helped to make the flavour a bit less flat, as otherwise these would be very plain.
Chocolate Cake: Very moist, and tasty. Perhaps closer to a brownie than a cake, which I prefer anyway.
Pears in Wine: So easy and glamorous!!
Overall, I think it’s a very novel idea to have a biography cookbook, and it’s fun. Many of the recipes are quite easy to make, though I didn’t care for the number of them which were not actually Audrey Hepburn’s (why would I care about Luca Dotti’s wife’s cake?). But it’s a sweet idea, and everything turned out fairly well. I’ve also never spent this long on a single blog post.