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“Audrey at Home” was com­piled by Luca Dotti. Col­legian | Carmel Kookogey

Audrey Hepburn was known for many things. In 1953, the Dutch legend-to-be made her first mem­o­rable movie appearance as an under­cover heiress, racing across the cob­ble­stone streets of Rome on a motor­cycle with a jour­nalist (Gregory Peck) in “Roman Holiday”. In 1961, she made fashion history in her role as Holly Golightly, the solemn escort in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” And Hepburn was known for her spaghetti al pomodoro.

Many are sur­prised to dis­cover that Hepburn was a ded­i­cated cook. It wasn’t until I read a biog­raphy on her in 2014 that I dis­covered her food phi­losophy was equally inspiring, if not more so, than her film career (and I acquired her cookbook posthaste). “Audrey at Home,” the New York Times best­selling cookbook com­piled by Hepburn’s son Luca Dotti, shares the classic recipes her family loved and the stories and photos that accompany them, wrapped in a cover of floral orange and green.

Her cookbook embodies the same classic ele­gance that her Hol­lywood style was known for, and Hepburn’s recipes are staunchly tra­di­tional: not tra­di­tionally American, not even entirely tra­di­tionally Dutch, but always tra­di­tionally Hepburn.

Tucked between a chocolate cake recipe, gnocci alla Romana, and Turkish-style sea bass, is a recipe for “hutspot,” a Dutch word used to describe a puree of potatoes, carrots, and onions. The recipe dates back to the 1574 Spanish siege of Leiden, and is eaten every year to cel­e­brate Dutch lib­er­ation, a symbol of Holland’s ability to with­stand invasion. Hepburn often shared this dish later in life with her friend and longtime com­panion Dutch actor Robert Wolders, and during her own time of waiting for lib­er­ation: the Nazi occu­pation of the Nether­lands, during her childhood. It was more than food: it was home.

Hepburn’s classic chocolate cake recipe — called “Lib­er­ation in a Candy Bar” — is a nod to that post WWII European lib­er­ation, when a Canadian soldier gave Hepburn seven chocolate bars, the most food she’d seen in months. It’s accom­panied by a photo of Hepburn, a sticky note stuck over it, cap­tioned: “Me, 1946, having stuffed for the first time after the war.”

Hepburn’s early life was heavily tinged with sadness, a flavor that would linger into her adulthood, but her rela­tionship with food was always one of joy. Even when her per­sonal life was fraught with stress, and she was known to worry about the size of her ears, the shape of her nose, or the dark circles under her eyes caused by anemia, food was one of the few things Hepburn enjoyed with abandon. She was known to eat gen­erous helpings of pasta, and somehow never gained a pound.

“Let’s face it,” Hepburn said. “A nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people. It does for me.”

Chocolate meant lib­er­ation. Gstaad’s pesto, made from basil plants grown on your kitchen win­dowsill, meant sum­mertime in the Swiss Alps. Veal roast with mushroom sauce meant small village markets, shopping for even more fresh greens, though Hepburn’s own garden boasted many, and chanterelles — or “trompettes de la mort,” as she some­times called them — mush­rooms. Food had sig­nif­i­cance, it was not just some­thing that a person ate mind­lessly. Perhaps having been without it for so long increased its sig­nif­i­cance for Hepburn, or perhaps she just liked to savor it.

Despite having access to some of the best food around the world, the war-time child in Hepburn never com­pletely left. Hepburn grew her own tomatoes, plucking them when they were green and putting them on the kitchen win­dowsill to redden, but one of her favorite “junk” indul­gences was penne with ketchup straight from the bottle — a real insult to most tra­di­tional chefs, but a real treat during WWII.

“All my life, what I wanted to earn money for was to have a house of my own. I dreamed of having a house in the country with a garden and fruit trees,” she said.

Hepburn’s phi­losophy was to live life well. Some­times that meant using the finest herbs available, and some­times it meant penne tasted best to her with ketchup, and she scorned neither. She was not inter­ested in things because they cost money, but because they had a richer value to her: whether in their history, her tra­dition, or, quite simply, for nostalgia’s sake, like her recipes.

“It’s going to sound like a thumping bore,” she told Larry King on “Larry King Live” in 1991, “but my idea of heaven is Robert and my two sons at home — I hate sep­a­ra­tions — and the dogs, a good movie, a won­derful meal … I am really blissful when that happens.”

She was known as a film legacy, but equally important were the legacies Hepburn pre­served and per­fected in her kitchen — one penne alla vodka at a time.