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A Curious Communion of Flour and Form: An Interview with Deborah Rogers

Elizabeth Maske December 29th, 2023
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Finished Loaves

An early morning encounter with an article in the New York Times inspired Deborah Rogers to enroll in this year’s bread-baking workshop. The workshop, scheduled for October 6, aligned with Deborah’s upcoming retirement and became a meaningful way to commemorate the occasion. Knowing she’d find a friend to join her for the getaway, Deborah reserved two tickets.

Friends Deborah and Wanda embarked on the three-hour drive from Chicago to Taliesin for a weekend promising all things sourdough. Above all, they saw the experience as “an incredible opportunity to spend time on the property.” 

Over the years, Deborah has attended several tours and events at Taliesin. Yet this experience promised an atypical immersion with ample time to “look at all of Wright’s details.” She muses, “He was an amazing creative genius, and he didn’t stop, even as he got older.”

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Bazille Booth with organic flours from Meadowlark Farm and Mill

Wanda, unfamiliar with Wright, sought but a weekend’s companionship with a friend, embracing the experience with an open mind. Bazille Booth, the guiding instructor, was hailed for her ease and charm. Additional seminars led by Bazille, “with perhaps soup and quick bread,” Deborah suggested, would be a well-received encore. The getaway was punctuated by several educational presentations, including a meeting with local farmer Gary Zimmer and a visit to Meadowlark Organics Farm and Mill. “Loved [Gary], the rye farmer. Loved him! We did a walk into his fields, and he described what he’s doing, and he was truly amazing. Loved that. I loved the intro to Meadow Lark Mills in that it’s a local place that I’d never heard of. Lots of introductions that I didn’t know about.”

Beyond everything, the most memorable part of the weekend for Deborah was spending time with her friend on the historic estate. “We stayed at Midway in the two-bedroom apartment, which was perfect. I was wondering how this was going to work and was glad it wasn’t a dorm situation. Everyone was separate, and we had both alone time and time with the group. I liked that the whole weekend wasn’t structured. Afternoons were free, and we had dinner on our own.” She adds, “Though the collective group were very diverse, nice people, because I had my friend, we were bonding with our experience…We spent our afternoons drinking wine in the apartment, enjoying the view, eating snacks, and catching up. It was nice to catch up.”

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Midway Barn (Lynn Hill 2022)

Nearly unlimited access to the estate was exciting for the seasoned visitor, and staying at Midway Barn offered something new and unexpected. “You don’t get to see inside of it on tour, and there are apartments in the back,” adding, “It had a great fireplace. Even in a small two-bedroom, you could see Wright’s details in the living room on the porch. I had no idea.”

Arriving with a general interest in baking, Deborah took away a newfound appreciation for sourdough bread, tasting the difference when using freshly milled flour and an established starter (also called the ‘mother’). “I’ve never baked sourdough bread and learned it’s really not difficult. But what I, in my experience, didn’t realize is you have a ‘mother,’ and you have to feed it regularly. And you use, just like, a tablespoon… Yes, it was the best bread I’ve eaten in my life,” but when referring to making the bread herself, she laughs, “But it’s not going to happen.”

In the end, the participants got to take home their creations. Deborah’s rye loaf currently sits in the freezer. “I’m not going to make that either,” she states, “but I loved the experience. Great weekend. Beautiful weather, and it was nice to be at Taliesin.

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Workshop Presentation

When asked for parting words, she states, “Keep it going. Anything. It does get people to see Taliesin, and if they don’t know about it already, they’ll be wowed at the legacy, and it’s important to keep it going. These seminars get people in and get people that aren’t just Wright supporters, but foodies.”

The resulting experience was more than the expected communion of flour and form, but a celebration of friendship with an intimate view of Wright’s architecture. Deborah’s experience shows that you don’t have to be a professional baker who commits to maintaining an established starter to embark on this experience. For one weekend, Taliesin invites you to be curious, to come with an open mind, and let them give you the tools to try something new. Skilled instructors, who are lifelong professionals, will guide you through the weekend, allowing you to become whoever you choose, even if it’s just for a day or two.