Delicately flavoured, delicate looking. A grand dish
-Jean Paré, founder of the Company’s Coming cookbook series, on Fettuccine Alfredo
Mary Pickford was a Hollywood and culinary force to be reckoned with.  
Not only was Pickford a major star of the silent era, but she also received an Academy Award in 1929 for her first sound performance, in a film called Coquette. In fact, she had been one of the thirty-six founders of the Academy in the first place. Her production company made films for United Artists and she continued producing after retiring from acting. She wrote a novel called The Demi-Widow, which was published in 1934 – the same year of her triumphant return to Toronto, where
[s]he was given an official civic reception, and crowds of fans jammed the downtown streets. Pickford was presented with a gold Centennial medal, and in a speech in which she paid homage to her parents, she said, I am proud to be a Canadian’”. (Historica Canada – ‘Mary Pickford’, web)
While the locals in attendance likely appreciated the comment, it was not strictly accurate at that point in her life. Pickford had become an American citizen by marrying Hollywood star Douglas Fairbanks some fourteen years prior. They’d been separated for about year by the time of that reception in Toronto, but in happier times, the couple had been active in the reframing of Tinseltown’s talent-producer relationship. They’d teamed up with Charlie Chaplin to form United Artists, an organisation they hoped would help them wrest creative control away from meddling Hollywood studios and capricious distribution companies.
Pickford was also, of all things, a pasta pioneer. She and Fairbanks didn’t create Fettuccine Alfredo, but they were responsible for the rise in popularity of the creamy noodle dish in North America. 
Could anyone think of pasa without thinking of Italy?  (Paré 7)
Rome, circa 1914: a young man named Alfredo di Lelio has a restaurant on the Via della Scrofa. According to the food and dining blog Menuism,
[h]is wife Ines was pregnant with their second child, and the pregnancy caused her terrible nausea [so] Alfredo made Ines a dish of plain pasta, pasta in bianco, or white pasta. He tossed the fresh-made pasta with butter and Parmesan. Ines ate this dish regularly, with whatever happened to be the fatte in casa (“made in house”) pasta. Alfredo added it to the restaurant’s menu. (Kohatsu, web)
Stirring long noodles while they cook helps prevent them from clumping. Once you add them to the boiling water, wait a minute until the pasta softens, then stir almost constantly with a pair of long tongs until the noodles are cooked al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander, flush it quickly with just enough water to remove any excess starch, toss it with the sauce, and allow it to finish cooking. (Gold 89)
In 1920, Pickford and Fairbanks arrived in Rome on the Italian leg of their extensive European honeymoon. After being mobbed by fans in Paris and London, they hoped to have a quiet dinner in the Italian capital. They set out one evening and happened to walk into di Lelio’s restaurant. Alfredo’s new item was ordered, and the fatte in casa pasta that night just happened to be fettuccine. Enamored with the tasty and unpretentious dish, Mary asked di Lelio for the recipe, which he was happy to write out for her. She took it back to Pickfair, the Beverly Hills mansion where she and Fairbanks lived, and it wasn’t long before the newlyweds were mixing up enormous servings of ‘Fettuccine Alfredo’ for the Hollywood movie community.
Alfredo sauce – Heat cream, butter, garlic, salt and pepper and nutmeg in a large saucepan on medium. Simmer until reduced to 3 cups, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and stir in parmesan. Remove from the heat and set aside. (Gold ibid)
Mary and Douglas sent Alfredo a photo of themselves dining at his restaurant, along with a deluxe cutlery gift set. The gold spoon and fork were engraved with the couple’s names and the words “‘to Alfredo, the King of the noodles’” (Kohatsu). Whenever their friends or colleagues – the cream of the American film industry - found themselves in Rome, they would stop by Via alla Scrofa, leaving their own photos with Alfredo. He would add them to his growing collection on the wall.
Even though the restaurant had become a popular tourist and star-spotting spot, Alfredo sold his business in 1942 (the new owner kept the restaurant’s name and the celebrity photos on display). With his son Armando, Alfredo opened a new eateryin the 1950s, calling it the Il Vero Alfredo (‘The True Alfredo’). It’s is still open today, run by di Lelio’s grandchildren. Both it and Via all Scrofa continue to market themselves as the birthplace of Fettuccine Alfredo.
Despite its Hollywood success and popularity throughout North America, however, Fettucine Alfredo didn’t really catch on in Italy:
the only places you’ll find alfredo sauce are at the competing Alfredo restaurants, where the fettuccine alfredo is mixed tableside, often with the Pickford and Fairbanks golden fork and spoon (each has a set they claim to be the original)...Elsewhere you’ll have to ask for the dish by its other names, including fettuccine al burro, fettuccine burro e parmigiano, or pasta in bianco. Nobody will know what you’re asking for if you ask for fettuccine alfredo. (ibid)
Pickford and Fairbanks separated in 1933 and divorced soon afterwards. Voicing a wish to “die as a Canadian”, Pickford was indeed able to reclaim citizenship in this country before her death in 1979. Thanks to her, Fettuccine Alfredo, alongside ham and pineapple pizza, has joined Canada’s growing list of Italian-esque entreés.
Finish Fettuccine – Drain the pasta and immediately transfer to a large saucepan and add the Alfredo sauce. Bring it to a simmer on medium-high heat. Divide among 4 plates or bowls, garnish with tomato-basil salsa and parsley and serve immediately. (Gold)

Works cited
Gold, Kerry. The White Spot Cookbook. Vancouver: Figure 1 Publishing Inc, 2013. Print. 
Historica Canada (no writer credited). ‘Mary Pickford’. The Canadian Encyclopedia. Web.
http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/mary-pickford/
Accessed on 1 April 2017.
Kohatsu, Kim. ‘The Origins of Fettuccini Alfredo’. Menuism. 30.10.2013. Web.
https://www.menuism.com/blog/history-of-fettuccine-alfredo/
Accessed on 1 April 2017.
Pare, Jean. Company’s Coming – Pasta. Edmonton: Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 2000. Print.

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