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Lets make pasta

It is finally springtime in Switzerland. The lake of Geneva shines under the
late March sun, reflecting crystal blue skies, after the dreadfully gray and sad Mittel-
European winter.

Sophia is pervaded with the energy of springtime this morning, brushing off
the winters lethargic drowsiness. She draws her bedrooms heavy curtains and
opens all windows of her large apartment overlooking the lake to soak the sunlight
Oh, it feels so good. Some warmth, at long last!
Springtime always makes her feel like the girl of her youth when, young and
carefree on a day like this, against her mothers warning (you are gonna get a cold),
she would go to the beach of Pozzuoli and stick her feet in the still, chilly
Mediterranean sea.

It is such a gorgeous day, how am I going to make the best of it?
She fusses around the large, opulent apartment; she helps the maid for a few
minutes to clean the carpets and dust the heavily gilded antique furniture. Then,
bored and restless, she watches TV although, despite having moved to Geneva with
husband and children in tow almost a decade ago, she still understands very little
French. No, the TV is not working. She glances at the phone and finally settles on
making a call.

Thirty miles along the lake, close to Lousanne, sits a small village called
Tolochenaz. A few thousand souls live a very simple, healthy and upscale life

It is divinely warm and sunny at La Paisable, the villa in the countryside of
Tolochenaz that Audrey purchased a long time ago when, tired of the Hollywood
celebrity game, she decided to take refuge somewhere authentic, European; a place
she could call home.

Terrible winters notwithstanding, she has been really happy in Switzerland
two husbands later, she has found love again in her golden years with Robert.
You are seven years younger than me, people will talk Will you manage? Audrey
asked Robert as soon as they started dating, back in 1980. But people talk anyway
and she has never been happier in her life. Her children are older now, men - Sean
lives mostly in Los Angeles, Luca shares his time between his dad, in Rome, and her,
in Switzerland. Old age never felt more fulfilling.

Perfect day for gardening, Audrey thought, waking up to the sunny morning.
And here she is, in the garden, sitting on the grass surrounded by a few daffodils
timidly opening up to the hopeful spring sun, geared up with a large straw hat and
gardening gloves, brandishing scissors, digging, pulling, planting, pruning.

She feels energized, very much alive.

Madame Hepburn, a call for you, says her maid, appearing at the large
French doors opening to the garden.
Who is it? Audrey removes her hat and dubs a delicate pearl of sweat from
her forehead.
Madame Loren.
Ah, Sophia Ill be there in a second.
Audrey always takes Sophias calls she is one of the few people for whom
she is always available.
They have known each other for a long time but it is only in the last few years,
after Sophia came back from her stint in the Italian prison, that they have cemented
a friendship, a clear case of opposites attract.

In fact, they are so different, physically and personality-wise: one earth, the
other air, one physical and extroverted, the other reserved and ethereal.
I should detest Sophia, since she stole my Oscar, said Audrey at a dinner in honor
of her friend a couple of years before, referring to her 1962 nomination for
Breakfast at Tiffanys and the Oscar she lost to Sophia Loren for her performance in
Two Women, but she is not only a most talented actress but also, and above all, a
true friend.

Bonjuor, Sophia, says a perky Audrey over the phone. Isnt this a glorious
It is, thats why I am calling you.
Audrey lets herself fall on a large, cushy and comfy chair, the antithesis of the
dark velvet, stately sofa Sophia is sitting on in her intimidating oaky library.
Then, tell me everything, continues Audrey.
I was thinking Carlo and the boys are in Paris until tomorrow, I am alone
and dont want to waste this gorgeous day God knows what this unpredictable
Swiss weather will bring tomorrow How about I drive to La Paisable and we spend
the day together? Unless you already have plans
Audrey stretches her neck to both sides. This gardening affair is old already
and yes, it would be fun to spend the day with Sophia; she is a source of amusing
stories And that accent of hers, both in English and French is so entertaining
Sure, I would love to. I will put together some lunch and we can eat in the garden.
I have an idea, lets make pasta, says Sophia enthusiastically. She rarely eats
pasta for the obvious dietary reasons but today it is sunny and she is in the mood.
I am afraid I dont have pasta at home.
Maro, you survive on carrots like a rabbit let me get there and well go
shopping together.
Its a deal. Audrey hangs up and removes her gloves and hat. Marie, would
you make sure the gardener cleans up my mess and finishes up planting and all?
And she disappears into her bathroom.

The blue Mercedes smoothly and quickly crunches the 30 miles that separate
Geneva from Tolochenaz. Sophia sits comfortably in the back and absorbs the
beauty of the glistening lake. She is elegantly casual in a light cashmere sweater,
flowy pants and Ferragamo moccasins. Audrey made her appreciate moccasins, a
kind of shoes Sophia had never considered neither elegant nor flattering before. But
the way Audrey wore hers, looking comfortable yet glamorous, convinced Sophia to
look into the style (especially since her feet were tolerating high heels less and less)
and call Ferragamos widow Wanda to discuss a potential adoption of the flats.
As it turned out, it was a perfect marriage she was able to keep her feet happy and
her style glitzy.

The street veers away from the lake. A couple of turns and a glorious
countryside opens before Sophias large and dark sunglasses. She removes them to
take in the understated beauty of the large estate of La Paisable.

Sophia, darling.
A couple of kisses, European style.
Audrey, you look gorgeous.
They flow inside, through a large and bright foyer, into the intimate and cozy
parlor. They sit down. Tea is immediately served.
You know Audrey, you are aging so gracefully. Whats your secret?
The secret, my dear, is that je ne give-a-fuck, comprend
They giggle. Sophia cant help feeling a little stab of jealousy at Audreys
apparently nonchalant relationship with herself, her luck of self-absorbedness
which makes her so appealing, confident and real. Sometimes she would like to be
less concerned with aging and the image she has to keep up for the industry and the
magazines and the fans. When she was young, she was a carefree, independent spirit
does age ruin everything?
Whatever it is, you are truly beautiful. Maybe your secret will rub off on me.
Of course, but only if youll let it. Listen, we are supposed to be fabulous, but
really, screw fabulous. Look at my hands - I havent had a manicure in 3 weeks and I
dont care, says Audrey, proudly showing grown cuticles and natural nails. She
lights up a cigarette.
Sophia extends her arm to admire her perfectly manicured hands.
Tesoro, I have my manicure done every 3 days and I love it!
See, we are who we are! says Audrey.
They both chuckle at their differences, at the way they see life and what
affects them.
So, here we are, 2 girls alone no husbands, boyfriends, kids We should go
wild! Sophia sips her tea.
Well, how about we start with making lunch? Im hungry, says Audrey,
standing up. Lets go to the kitchen and see whats in that sad fridge of mine.

Not much, says Sophia, looking for something edible in the almost-empty
Sophia moves around a bottle of milk, half a wheel of Brie cheese, a box of crackers.

No wonder youre so skinny, she says. So, as I said on the phone, lets make pasta.
I really am in the mood for some good, earthy tomato pasta alla sorrentina, come la
faceva mamma quando ero bambina.
The beauty of having Audrey as a friend is that not only is she Audrey, but
also that she understands Italian this is what Sophia told her sister when she first
cemented this friendship. Having lived in Italy for some time and married an Italian
man, Audrey is pretty fluent in Italian and it works so well for Sophia, who
sometimes gets tired of speaking a foreign language and easily falls back to her
mother tongue. Audrey understands that todays meal will be pasta the way Sophias
mother used to make when she was a child, Sorrento-style. And she is looking
forward to the treat.

We need to make a supermarket run there must be a supermarket around
here and buy everything. My chauffeur can take us.
Ok, lets, but Ill drive, replies Audrey. She grabs a silk scarf from behind the
kitchen and quickly wraps it around her head.

Oh, the wind! yells Sophia from the passenger seat of the spiffy, convertible
Austin Martin Audrey is driving like a formula one pro.
Yes, isnt it fantastic? Audrey yells back.
Sophia grabs her teased mane of hair with both hands, trying to keep it in
place, to no avail.
Just let it go, Sophia! incites Audrey.
Sophia considers it. Then. Ok, je ne give-a-fuck! she screams and lets her
hair go wild in the warm wind. Audrey removes her scarf and does the same. They
both explode in a fragrant laugh and a hair tornado.

Listen, God knows I love living in Switzerland, but the produce here is
atrocious. Looks at these sad tomatoes Says Sophia picking up pale and shriveled
vegetables that barely resemble tomatoes. Ah, the tomatoes in Napoli
Sally Tomato Smiles Audrey to herself.
Where? What kind of tomato is that?
It was the name of a character in Tiffanys
Good, but that wont help with the sauce, replies Sophia. Here, this is the
best of the worst. She picks up a handful of blush tomatoes and put them in a bag.
The secret is to add some conserva, how do you call it? Ah, tomato paste, to
brighten up the sauce, you know. They must have some here, no?
They peruse the small supermarket under the discreet glances of the other
customers. Audrey is not an unlikely sight around here but Audrey and Sophia
together, hair disheveled, pushing a grocery cart they certainly make an
impression even on the most jaded.
Pasta Umm, lets see Sophia scrutinizes the small selection of available
pasta with the concentration of a surgeon.
German pasta? Oh Dio, siamo arrivato alla fine del mondo!

Audrey chuckles. Sophia is so colorful and her expressions, with her slight
Neapolitan accent, always crack her up. German pasta will cause the world to come
to an end ah!
She finally settles with an Italian brand.
Sottomarca, sub-brand, she says, but at least its Italian.
You must have some basil in that farm of yours?
The best, plant to table.
La Sorrentina also needs some good, fresh mozzarella, but look at this sad,
processed cheese Ok, will do without. Lets pay and go.

Here, pick some good leaves and wash them up, directs Sophia.
Audrey carefully selects the best, greenest basil leaves from a bunch her maid
has picked in the herb garden. She then raises the privileged leaves in front of her
eyes in appraisal.
Audrey, its basil, not diamonds. Just throw them in here. She lifts up the lid
of a small pot where chopped tomatoes are already simmering.
How long will it take? asks Audrey.
15 minutes. We can start boiling the water for la pasta. Even though Sophia
has rarely been inside Audreys kitchen, she seems to own the space. She
confidently opens doors and drawers and pulls out exactly whatever spoon, knife,
ladle or plate she is looking for.
Nu poco e questo, she says in Neapolitan throwing a pinch of salt in the pot,
Nu poco e quello. She lets a touch of grinded pepper fall on the red sauce.
Audrey laughs as she opens a bottle of Chateau Rayas and lets it breathe for a
You are a comic genius in your native language. American audiences will
never know, too bad
Sophia puts her hands on her hips. They love me for my inner talent
Audrey laughs again. Then she pours 2 glasses and hands one to Sophia.
Here, to spring.
The glasses clink.
Che buono questo vino!
Roberts choice. He has completely re-stacked the cellar.
He has excellent taste, says Sophia.
Thank you, darling.
They chuckle.
The sauce smells divine, says Audrey. How did you learn to cook?
I don't know I guess by observing, and tasting. Food to me is related to
memories; the nicer the memory, the better my food.
Ah, chuckles Audrey, heres the title of your cookbook, when you write
one: Recipes and Memories Not bad, huh?
Fantastico To the book. Another toast, another refill. This pasta, for
instance, Sophia continues with her train of thought, ,My mother used to make it
during the war, when we were on a budget. Another dish I make perfectly is the
Easter Pastiera. This little woman made it for me when I was in jail The guards
delivered it to me with a message. More or less it said: Dear Sophia, may this cake I

made for you with my hands ease and sweeten your sojourn in jail. It was delicious
and it did!
How? Audrey asks tentatively.
You can ask, go on, invites Sophia with a relaxed smile.
Well, you know, how was it?
You know what? In the end prison wasnt that bad. I mean, at first it was
horrible. When I arrived I was in shock and I remember all these women in the
other jails screaming my name, like I was there just visiting and signing
autographs When they closed the door behind me, I fell on the bed and cried all
night. Also, the humiliation, Oddio But then I got over it; you know me, you need to
look at the bright side. I had a lovely, freshly painted pink, clean cell, I had a TV set,
they let me wear a DVF wraparound I was a stylish prisoner.
They both laugh.
It was humbling and liberating, Sophia continues. No make-up, no false
eyelashes, no wigs, no jewelry it was just me. And the amazing people who came
every day to leave messages of support and encouragement and incredible food. I
gained two kilos but je ne gave-a-fuck
Another laugh.
I certainly didnt feel alone all along; I felt I was surrounded by so much love.
And of course my family came to visit every day I had no real privileges but I was
treated with honest respect. It was spa for the soul, you know?
Audrey nods and smiles.
So, hows life in the love boat? asks Sophia, lazily stirring the sauce.
I cannot explain, Sophia. He is just perfect for me and I hope I am perfect for
him, too. He is the man I want to get old with. Older, I mean.
Another chuckle.
Its just a good match Is everything ok with you and Carlo? Audrey asks.
Why? Sure, I mean, we have been married for such a long time
Audrey looks at Sophia, unconvinced.
Ecche Ok, I love Carlo, he has been a good husband, almost a father to me.
But now, looking at you, how radiant you are, I wonder You had the courage to
divorce the men you didnt love anymore and look for more passion in your life
You didnt settle I mean, I love Carlo, but sometimes I think about what I have been
missing out on in life; the excitement of romance, a passion that sweeps you away.
Maybe I should have married Marcello but then, on second thought, I dont really
think I was his type. Look at him, he ended up with women like Faye and Catherine,
blonde, frosty bitches
They laugh and Audrey toasts: To frosty bitches.
Glasses clink again. Audrey refills them.
Oh well, Sophia seems to wrap all these considerations up. And what about
acting? You havent made a movie in some time Ah, the water is boiling. She
opens up a package of pasta. Penne sink into the pot.
She joins Audrey at the table and helps her set it for lunch.
Did I tell you I have just accepted a position with Unicef? says Audrey as
she places forks next to plates.
Unicef? The big organization for children?

Yes. I will be their Goodwill Ambassador.

Gesu, and what would you be doing?
Well, basically my task is to inform, to create awareness on the needs of
Sophia looks at Audrey questioningly.
I will become their spokesperson, their image, if you will. This assignment is
designed for me to attract attention to the poorest countries in the world, where
children are most in need of food, medicines you name it. They want me to travel
the world. I would be going to Southeast Asia, Africa, poverty-stricken countries,
meet with the deprived and the destitute and just raise awareness. I will be followed
by reporters and photographers
In Africa? Whos going to do your hair and make up?
They laugh.
I know, I know it is not about glamour, Audrey But what they are asking of
you seems to be really tough.
It is, and I thought about it. I discussed it with Robert and with the kids It
is something I have to do and they are supporting me.
Audrey sits down at the table and collects her thoughts.
I was just a little girl when my parents divorced. My mother was Dutch and
she decided to move back to the Netherlands and took me with her. Thats where we
were when the war broke out; we were in Arnhem when the Nazis occupied
My mom was blue-blooded, a baroness, and we were used to certain
comforts Well, after Hitler invaded us, there were no more comforts. Times
became hard for everybody, aristocracy included. We had land and palaces but no
food. I suffered from malnutrition. I was sensitive and became depressed and, in the
end, the only thing I was able to feed was my malaise. Food became my obsession,
hunger my sickness
Millions of children are starving from famine, drought, wars I am just not
able to neglect it any longer. I never cared much for celebrity, you know that, but
now I'm really glad I've got a name because I'm using it for what it's worth. It's like a
bonus that my career has given to me.
Sophia absorbs the moving speech, visibly touched.
You ask about my acting, well I have recently realized Ive been auditioning
my whole life for this role - and I finally got it.
Sophia quickly wipes a tear from her eye.
Mi fai piangere
Oh, dont cry darling.
You are just too good, una santa!
Hardly a saint I am just a mother and so are you. Listen, make me a
promise, today, here: promise me that should anything happen to me, should I not
be able to do this at some point, you will step in and become a Goodwill Ambassador
for Unicef too
Me? Sophia is astounded.
Yes. Do promise!

Sophia smiles uncomfortably for a second, maybe looking for a way out. But
Audrey has pinned her with her stern glance and unmovable resolve. Sophia sighs.
E prometto, prometto I promise. Youre going to be a hundred and still travel
around the world for your children

They look at each other with the affection of old friends.
Ill drink to that! Audrey raises her glass, Sophia joins her in a toast.
They down the wine. Then -
Uhhh, la pasta
Sophia runs to the stove and removes the pot with the boiling pasta. Swiftly,
she drains it and pours it in a large bowl.
She ladles rich tomato sauce on top, sprinkles it with basil and, after
vigorously stirring the pasta, brings it to the table.
Mon Dieu, che spettacolo! exclaims Audrey.
Sophia smiles and spoons very generous portions onto their plates.
Here, eat. Youre not going to get this pasta in Africa.

The End