Book: Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen (New June 2015) by Luca Dotti with Luigi Spinola
This is a most personal remembrance of a mother by her son. Thus, there are a minimum of “inside Hollywood” stories and scarce mention of her other family–Mel Ferrer first husband and Sean Ferrer first son. For that other family, you can read a book by Sean Ferrer written in 2015, Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit. I wrote last year about a biography of Audrey Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn: A Charmed Life by Robyn Karney. That covers the rest of the story–including her professional life.
A Charmed Life took place mostly in Italy and America. But according to Luca Dotti in Audrey at Home, her favorite place was Switzerland. To be specific, Tolochenaz, a small town near Lausanne where she had a home surrounded by gardens.The name of her home was La Paisible–which means “Peaceful village.”
After her marriage to Mel Ferrer ended, she withdrew from film to be with her family. After her second marriage, to Andrea Dotti, an Italian psychiatrist ended, she spent the last decade of her life with Robert Wolders, her companion, but never husband.
She loved seeing things grow and cooking simple meals, and many of the books included recipes focus on pasta or vegetable dishes. According to Dotti, she told Wolders that if the economy failed and they lost everything, they could always grow potatoes.
It may be a stretch to imagine Audrey Hepburn as a potato farmer, but in this perhaps idealized view of her life by her son, she was never happier than when living simply, surrounded by family and friends, shopping in the Swiss village and cooking in her own kitchen. It is a shock to realize that her main film career only lasted 15 years, although between1968 and her death in 1993 she acted in three more films and a television movie and provided the voice over for a musical composition of Diary of Anne Frank.
These career moves are not the focus of the book. Instead we learn things like her love of chocolate, that came from a period of near starvation when she was a young girl during World War II. We learn that she was a chain smoker, and not only cooked sophisticated French or Italian dishes, but also liked penni with catsup or macaroni and cheese.
Her cooking included cooking for her dogs. Of course the dogs in the family would make an impression on her young son, and it is delightful to hear about Hepburn’s favorite dogs–not a subject that generally gets covered in other biographies. She cooked rice with a little meat and a cooked carrot for the dogs, and added an egg once a week for a healthy coat.
Of course she had servants–long time retainers who traveled from Italy to Switzerland, from house to house, and of course those included a cook. So it is impossible to know how much hands on cooking Hepburn did, but Dotti assures us that she was the one who did the shopping. And she did keep an extensive collection of hand-written recipes.
The book cover consists of a primitive-style painting of La Pasible, painted by Hepburn herself. That cover makes the best argument I could think of for shelling out the extra bucks to get the hard cover edition rather than settling for the Kindle digital version of this book. And Audrey at Home is impeccably produced–packed with wonderful, homy photographs, including images of cookbooks and her hand-written recipes.
It is fun to see a kind of insider’s view, not only of Hepburn’s life, but of life in a small Swiss village. It is also interesting to see how she blends cultures, languages and food. Because of her multi-national life, she is not hide bound in sticking to the “right” way to construct a sentence, or a dish of pasta. It is a phenomenon that may be recognized by fellow travelers. The more you travel, the more all cultures blend into one–the one created by you.
Audrey Hepburn worked with UNICEF from 1988 until 1982. The thing most people may not have recognized is that she credited an earlier International children’s charity with saving her life after World War II. They pulled up in their big truck and unloaded food for the starving children of Holland. Audrey Hepburn, movie star and mother, died in January 1983.
Whether you are a movie fan, a wanabee Audrey Hepburn, a cook, a reader of family memoirs, you will find a reason to like this book.
To see more about the book, including her recipe for pasta pomodoro, check out my article at Ancestors in Aprons.
Note: There are links here to Amazon.com. You need to know that I am an Amazon affiliate, which means when you use my links to purchase something, although it costs you no more, I make a few cents to support A Traveler’s Library. Thanks for your support.
The publisher provided me with a copy of Audrey at Home for review. This is common practice and does not affect my opinion.