When I learned of Audrey at Home-Memories of my Mother’s Kitchen by Luca Dotti last year, I just knew I had to put it on my reading list. It’s no secret I am a huge fan of the late Audrey Hepburn. I also find great joy puttering in my kitchen with a pot of chicken soup on the stove, a pot roast in my slow cooker and my much beloved sugar mint cookies baking in the oven.
Most people know Audrey mainly through her film work and her humanitarian work with UNICEF. She is also notable for her Givenchy-honed sense of style. But to Luca Dotti, Audrey’s son with Andreas Dotti, she was simply his mother who loved him and his elder brother Sean. Audrey also love gardening and puttering in her kitchen discovering new recipes and savoring the tried and true.
But Audrey at Home isn’t merely a collection of recipes; it is lovingly written book filled with family photos and Luca’s sweet (and sometimes bittersweet) memories of being Audrey’s son. I always thought I knew her, but Audrey at Home gave me insight into a delightfully singular, yet everyday woman more than I could ever know.
After creating a career, most notably in movies like Roman Holiday (for which she won an Oscar), Sabrina, Funny Face, A Nun’s Story, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Wait Until Dark, Audrey decided to dial back and focus on being a wife, mother and homemaker. First in the country of Luca’s birth, Italy, and later in Switzerland, in a home called “La Paisable,” (The Peaceful Place). I can’t think of a better name for a home owned by Audrey Hepburn, especially considering how she barely survived the Holocaust as a child and spent her later years as a tireless advocate for children through her work with UNICEF. Audrey desired peace, not only for herself, but for others.
“There is a science of war, but how strange that there isn’t a science of peace. There are colleges of war; why can’t we study peace?” – Audrey Hepburn
Audrey also brought her desire for peace to her home, making it a welcoming place not just for her sons and the love her live, Robert Wolders. But also for her extended family and close friends (both famous and not famous). Food was just one way Audrey used to express a place of peace, love, comfort and joy.
Though Milwaukee is a great food town, and I have access to a wide-range of ingredients and food products in my east side neighborhood, I like Audrey’s idea of simplicity and less is more when it comes to cooking. Most of the ingredients in Audrey’s recipes can be found at your local grocery store, your garden and your favorite farmer’s market. While reading the book, I made note of Audrey’s recipes – flourless chocolate cake, mac and cheese, cutlets and various seasonal salads.
This past May 4th (Audrey’s birthday), I made the book’s first noted recipe called Hutspot, which sounds like a slightly elevated version of Pocket Stew. I learned how to make Pocket Stew when I was a freckle-faced Girl Scout and I still eat it to this day. Here is Audrey’s recipe for Hutspot:
HUTSPOT (Serves 2)
Ingredients: ½ pound (225 grams) beef shoulder or chuck roast
Salt and Pepper
2 large eggs
2 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
Whole grain mustard for serving
Add 1 cup of water (250 ml) to a braiser (I used my slow cooker). Add beef, lightly salted and peppered. Cook at a low temperature until tender.
Remove and set aside.
Increase the heat to medium and stir to thicken the gravy. Pour the gravy over the meat to keep warm.
In the meantime, place the potatoes in a pan and add water to cover the potatoes, then add the carrots and onion. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook the vegetables until tender, about 20 minutes. Mash the vegetables until tender, about 20 minutes. Mash the vegetables into a puree, and season with salt and pepper. On a platter, place the sliced meat on top of the puree and serve accompanied by mustard.
I have to say the result was very delicious, and quite comforting on a cold, windy day. I’m sure I will make Hutspot again and again
While reading this book I couldn’t help but think of my mom cooking for my sister and me. To this day, I still think she makes the best chicken soup ever. And though my mother was no Julia Child (too short) and no Martha Stewart (she’s never been to prison – well, not as far as I know), she made sure her kids got a decent meal while growing up. Though my sugar mint cookies should be declared a national treasure, I was inspired to make a favorite since childhood that my mother taught me- the classic chocolate chip cookie. Delicious!!
Interspersed throughout Audrey Hepburn are handwritten notes on gardening, food and actual photos of index cards with various recipes written on them. Remember when we used to have little boxes filled with index cards of recipes?
Audrey Hepburn at Home is a nearly-perfect book, one that not only celebrates Audrey Hepburn as the multi-faceted woman she was, but also one that celebrates the two greatest gifts we can give to our families, our friends, our communities and our world as a whole- our love and our labor.
On this mother’s day I would like to dedicate this post to my mother and my sister, Julie. I would also like to dedicate this post to two non-moms, my foodie friends Nora and Elaine who inspired me to trust myself more in the kitchen.
“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” ― Audrey Hepburn