Back of the House Fall 2011 Issue

Hillside Kitchen at Taliesin

By Jim Klousia | Photos By Jim Klousia 0

When we arrived at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin in Spring Green, year-round Taliesin resident Caroline Hamblen welcomed us. Caroline works for Taliesin Preservation, Inc., an organization dedicated to preserving the buildings, artifacts, landscape and legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright in Wisconsin.

Caroline and her family have lived at Taliesin for a decade, and she has been coordinating the school’s organically-managed kitchen garden, Hillside Vegetable Garden, since 2006 in an effort to serve home-grown produce to the residents, faculty and students.

In addition to the garden, Taliesin has 261 acres of Certified Organic cropland managed by Nick Zimmer of Otter Creek Farms and his father, Gary Zimmer, a farmer and consultant well known worldwide for his leadership in biological agriculture and dedication to improving farming through building healthy soils.

Following his Philosophy of Organic Architecture, Wright approached architectural design in a way that promoted harmony between human habitation and the natural world, such as employing local craftspeople and procuring materials found close to his building sites. This human-to-nature connection is also the inspiration for the architectural design, preservation, gardening and cooking that goes on there today.

As a number of people shared during our visit, Wright promoted a “well-rounded life” for everyone at Taliesin, which, both then and now, translates into an academic life integrated with hands-on experiences such as cooking and gardening.

As Caroline showed us around the garden, she harvested food for the day’s lunch. In her garden bag, we spied her well-worn copy of The Kitchen Gardener’s Handbook, which served as inspiration for this year’s garden planning. The students started many of their plants from seed, and the garden was in full swing with rows of greens, root vegetables, tomato and pepper plants and herbs, to name a few.

After the harvest, we headed to Hillside Kitchen to deliver the fresh food to Erik Krautbauer, a graduate from the architecture program and the school’s resident cook. Having spent most of his time in kitchens before and after architecture school, he’s clearly at home here.

“Garden-to-table culture was prominent here in the 30s and 40s. The original [Frank Lloyd Wright] house designs all incorporated garden space and outbuildings for animals,” Erik shared. “That culture faded out over time, and now we’re bringing it back.”

Erik is committed to weaning the school’s dependence on outside food sources like Sysco, and he’s tapping into the local food system, working with area farmers like Jeremy Lynch of Enos Farms (Spring Green) and Serafina Bathrick of Lightyears Farm (Avoca). As we enjoyed the culmination of their efforts—a delicious, fresh-fromthe- garden lunch—I could almost taste what Erik meant when he told us, “We have a holistic approach to teaching design and connecting to food.”

We’d like to extend a very special thank you to Caroline, Erik and the rest of the Taliesin crew for their hospitality and the privilege of being the first media in the school’s history to photograph the kitchen. It was a true honor to spend time with the Taliesin community.

Jim Klousia holds a Communication and Journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. A Wisconsin native, he is a local adventurer who loves food, photos and a good wheat beer. He is passionate about enjoying food with others and capturing life in Southern Wisconsin through photography.

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