The View from the Kitchen: An Upstairs-Downstairs Look at Frank Lloyd Wright's Most Famous House

December 19, 2009

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Not every historic house has its own cookbook, but Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater has Elsie Henderson to tell tales about the iconic house built over a waterfall in Pennsylvania. In The Fallingwater Cookbook: Elsie Henderson's Recipes and Memories, the cook, now 96, chronicles the history of the house and its owners, Edgar and Liliane Kaufmann, the millionaire Pittsburgh department store owners, and their son, Edgar jr. (It was an avant-garde family – on her first day of work, Elsie saw them swimming in the stream. Not every cookbook author gets to use the words "buck naked" in her book.) Mrs. Henderson shares stories both happy and sad from those fifteen years at Fallingwater. She spent a lifetime cooking for the rich and famous, including names such as Heinz, Shriver and Mellon.

In addition to the traditional farm-to-table recipes that Mrs. Henderson prepared for the Kaufmanns and their guests at Fallingwater, the cookbook includes special seasonal menus for entertaining by chef Robert Sendall, who has done many events at Fallingwater, and the late Jane Citron, a Pittsburgh cooking teacher.

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Author Suzanne Martinson, food editor of The Pittsburgh Press and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, first met Elsie Henderson when she interviewed her for a prize-winning newspaper story. They became friends and Mrs. Martinson wrote a book that is as much a memoir of an outstanding cook as it is a collection of her recipes.

Mrs. Martinson is a two-time winner of both the James Beard Award in journalism and the Bert Green Award sponsored by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. She was a member of the Longview Daily News staff that won the Pulitzer for its coverage of the eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Photographer Linda Mitzel's appealing photographs perfectly portray the simple yet elegant meals Elsie Henderson created in the Fallingwater kitchen to the music of a beautiful waterfall. Mrs. Mitzel has a photography studio in Pittsburgh.

 

Recorded Saturday, December 19, 2009 at Chicago History Museum.