Thursday, July 26, 2012

Book Signing at Loaves & Fishes & Exclusive Anna Pump Profile

A generation or two of Food lovers on the East End know and love Anna Pump and Loaves & Fishes. 
Not to mention all the extended food family who have received food gifts from returning East Enders or those who order online or the legions of dedicated cookbook fans.

Did you ever see take out that looks like jewelry confections?

She is the doyenne of elegant entertaining. She is Hampton royalty.

I am thrilled and honored to have been invited to her food “palace” for a book signing!
Anna Pump is one of the featured chefs in my book: “The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook.” 
Anna will also be doing a cooking demonstration (and tasting!) using one of her famous recipes, included in the book. 
See you Saturday, noon till 2 pm at Loaves & Fishes. 

I’m also looking forward to meeting her daughter, Sybille.  I was delighted to see her legendary baby food at the Cookshop :)

Anna Pump cooking and delighting customers at Cookshop

And I have a surprise for Anna too.  Can’t wait to see her reaction!

Here is part of the pretty email that landed in my inbox yesterday, announcing the book signing: (I've been on the email list for ages - and you can sign up too for all the news and happenings.)

Very Exciting!

And here is the first, full-length profile of chef Anna Pump as written for the book. 
It got edited down for space reasons, as every profile did.
However, as a special treat and salute to chef Anna, you can enjoy the full Anna Pump food story profile here:

Food Fairy Godmother

Anna Pump is the proverbial fairy godmother presiding over this magical land that is most often referred to simply as “The Hamptons.”   
Simple is the operative word.
That she is an enchanting “Food Goddess” bestowing her charms of pure and simple ingredients, elegant and simple entertaining advice and a cosmopolitan and simple approach to enjoying life, you soon get the idea that Anna’s poised combinations are why her unique and much imitated style enjoys so much respect simply because it is authentic and, increasingly; rare. 

Lest you think she is a creature from a Grimm’s tale, rest assured Anna Pump is the real thing. 
There was no one who helped establish the much-touted Hamptons lifestyle like she did. 
Almost single-handedly she crafted the sophisticated yet casual approach to dining and entertaining that is sought after by legions of weekenders and magazine feature spreads, food fans, and the locals.
And she accomplished this by doing what came naturally to her. 

In 1980 Anna started her business in the Hamptons, buying the business from Susan Costner & Devon Frederics (Devon is now married to Elie Zabar of New York City, of Zabar’s Deli and gourmet food renown)

The rest is history she says, now looking ahead to the third decade of summering in Long Island.
She and her daughter operate the Bridgehampton Inn, described as an elegant bed & breakfast, built in 1795.  It’s more like an exquisite visit with a very well to do relative.  All cozy and filled with stories abundant in every well-appointed room.  Anna is the owner of the Hamptons Specialty Food Shop where “food is lovingly prepared” in her Sagaponick Cookshop.  There she launched the gourmet take-out food business, Loaves & Fishes that is today, as she sweetly describes it,  “a shack - held together with…I don’t know what to say.” She hesitates before it’s agreed that it is love that is the ‘glue’ that holds it all together.   Her grandchildren now work the Shop with her, sweetly and with authority dispensing sage culinary advice such as “Trust me on this, as you are contemplating the chocolate brownie cake.” 

She makes it look simple.  But as a chef, baker, innkeeper, food and entertainment entrepreneur, cooking instructor, community food and health activist, not to mention the author of four cookbooks featuring her brand of entertaining and cooking, Anna is a force to be reckoned with.

When asked why she wanted to write cookbooks, she says,  “I love to cook.” 
It was that simple.

In fact, the first book came about through a friend whose wife was an agent.  The overture, such as it was, appears rather chaste.  “She invited me to lunch and said, “Anna, wouldn’t you like to write a cookbook?”
And I said, “Yeah, I do!”
Anna recalled that even at that time, there were already so many friends and customers who liked her food and wanted to learn how to make her signature Loaves & Fishes dishes for themselves. 
“I have so many good recipes and if you give me some advice, I can do it,” she noted to the literary agent-friend. 
That is how the first book was launched in 1985.
No nonsense.  Simple and delicious served up straightforward.    
In 1986 the original Loaves and Fishes was published.
And making it sound almost effortless or obvious as in ‘anybody could’ve done this,’ she guilelessly offers, “It evolved from there.”

How did this matriarch of all things “Hamptons” come to preside over such an enchanted land of bounty and beauty?  After all, the tip of Long Island may be one of the farthest points on the east coast but it would seem to be a world away from her European roots where she grew up on her family’s farm on the Danish/German border.

Anna and her husband immigrated to the United States after World War II. “There wasn’t much opportunity near us and my husband wanted to join his brother who had moved to America,” she says.  
Perhaps it is not surprising that they settled in the Garden State, along the Delaware River, near the town of Stockton.   It was the 1960’s and Anna was a young mother with two small children in a new world. 

She describes how her innate interest in food led her to read gourmet magazines and cookbooks to nourish her passion for food  -- and perhaps to learn about her adopted country’s culture. Remarkably, she didn’t speak any English when she moved to America, so all that reading also helped her learn the language, she commented.

In a mark of culinary valor, it wasn’t too long before she signed up to study cooking for several sessions.
With James Beard.  In New York City.
Without hesitation, she says she loved the cooking adventure.  She particularly remembers that Chef James Beard was very complimentary to her because she was “earthy’” in her cooking, as she describes it today.   She thought he could see she was someone who knew how to handle ingredients – how to cook a chicken and how to make stock.
It was an affirmation of her cooking prowess and her devotion to real, quality ingredients.  She adds modestly, “What I learned from him, I knew already…”

Acknowledging that she was privileged to study under the tutelage of the influential cooking master, Anna describes how James Beard would sit in the middle of the kitchen on a large director’s chair and watch the students cook.  Then he’d walk around and talk to the would-be cooks, dispensing hands-on training and support.
“And it was so great. “ she exudes.  Anna cites a then-tantalizing and exotic food introduction that she first made there: couscous.  “It was the original – we learned how to make a big plate of couscous and I can never forget that.  It took hours and hours to make and it was ‘Wonderful’ ” she sighs.

Sometime in the late 70’s, a friend who had rented a house in the Hamptons for the summer and couldn’t use it for two weekends offered it to Anna and her husband; her children having grown up by then.     
Her first visit struck her like a clarion call.  “It was all so great… it felt so right. I can never forget that it even ‘smelled great.”  We loved the Hamptons right away.”

The reason it felt so very right was that Anna grew up on her family’s farm located where the Baltic Sea is on one side and the North Sea on the other.  She says there are potato fields and seagulls overhead not unlike Long Island.
The area where she grew up was known for its fishing and farming and in Anna’s way of thinking; it is the geographical twin to the East End of Long Island.  Stepping out into the fresh, clean, salt air of the Hamptons felt a lot like being home.  

As a child, Anna learned to cook from her Danish mother who was very inventive. “There was always a lot of cooking going on in our house,” Anna recalls.  “My mother could make something out of nothing – and everything started from scratch.”   She also noted that in the early years after the war, there was no delicatessen for sandwiches – we had to serve and feed the farmhands from our kitchen” 
The link with Anna’s menus of gourmet take-out food was fomented early on.   Anna dedicated her first book to her mother:  “

In the same way, most of what she knows about gardening she learned from her mother and father. 
Her parents owned and managed a 40-acre small farm that is still part of the family. Anna’s sister and brother in law now run what was once a sustenance farm for the extended family and many of the Fransberg-area’s local residents. “We grew everything.” she said about the early years.   “There was rye and a lot of potatoes.   After World War II their big garden fields of produce contained so many edibles including peas and berries.  They also had dairy cattle.
“We supported the local people in the city who couldn’t buy anything else but would come and pick their own peas and carrots and pay for it and leave.” 
It seems she continues to draw strength from the family roots.  It is a family tradition that Anna visits her family’s European farm every year.

Anna brought her family’s heritage of cooking and baking and gardening with her to Long Island.
A hallmark of Anna’s cooking is her own inventiveness, or in today’s seduction, she cooks seasonally – just like her mother did.
In addition to learning from her talented mother and the esteemed James Beard, Anna further studied with Scotsman Maurice Margette, who ran a nearby cooking school on Shelter Island.  Anna also studied with Ann Maria Husta who cooked for the Kennedy White House. 
In the next breath, Anna claims she doesn’t consider herself a chef.  When confronted with the evidence she is billed as a Cook and Chef, she demurs.  “I am not a chef.  I can’t claim that title.”  Asked to explain, she says there is a distinction.  “The difference is a cook doesn’t have a degree.  A Chef has formal education. It has nothing to do with talent or actual preparation – One just can’t claim the title if you don’t have degree.”
Reminded she has several degrees, she yields. Anna is so modest at heart…

She reflects how today, so many people have great ideas about food.   “We’ve come so far. Everyone is now so interested and so knowledgeable. Even if they don’t cook themselves, they read cookbooks. They travel.  People are very inventive.”
She is adamant that the homegrown focus is not a trend at all.  “It’s here to stay.”  She thinks it’s very important that we persist with farm to table initiatives and make the fresh natural foods available for the population as a whole and not have low cost be the factor that leads to purchasing processed foods. 
“We must make organic and farm raised costs more affordable.  We need to come to come to a level where people who don’t have a lot of money can afford it,” she explains.  “If we could eat just fresh foods, it would be wonderful.” 

And if this Hamptons food doyenne has anything to say about it, they will.

“I just sent an email about this topic to the Slow Food Movement,” she says as ideas come tumbling forth.  “We need to do something local to create small groups in town to go into schools or invite them in to help teach them how to cook fresh food. For example, tell them how to get bones from the butcher  -- which costs nothing – and that they can make a great stock.  Then they can just throw in some vegetables and… But people don’t know how to do this anymore.” She concedes. 

She points out that people are more connected to food when one gardens and knows where their food comes from. 
She relates a funny story about being removed from one’s food legacy, describing a woman who worked for her.  “A city girl all her life, she was a pretty good cook. She was making cornbread  -- and Anna’s recipe features buttermilk, she hastens to add.  The young cook comes to her and says, “Anna we can’t use buttermilk, it’s sour!”  Anna said she had to tell her, “Well it IS sour! “

Anna said she always knew she’d have the Cookshop and the take-out food business that is now referred to as “gourmet.”
Yet, she didn’t know quite where to start.   So in 1979, her first summer in the Hamptons, she ended up working for Ina Garten, now known as the “Barefoot Contessa.”
At that time, Ina had a little shop in West Hampton Beach on Main Street.
Anna remembers the interview with Ina was “kinda different.” 
Anna called Ina about the position and Ina asked her to cook something for her.
In turn, Anna invited Ina to her house for lunch.
What kind of meal would steal the Barefoot Contessa’s heart? 
When asked, Anna remembered she made a simple and delicious meal of frittata and green salad and fresh French bread.  And for dessert she whipped up her cur de crème.  This signature recipe is in Anna’s cookbook as well as Ina’s, who credits Anna accordingly.  Ina also wrote the forward to Anna’s most recent cookbook, “Summer on a Platter.  Anna also appears regularly as a guest on the Food Network’s Barefoot Contessa.
“We have been best friends ever since” she declared proudly.   

Anna stirs the same deep-seated loyalty with her customers. “Most have been with me over all the years.  Every season, they come back into the shop with a hug.  They are glad I’m open again,” she radiates.  “They are almost like family now.  We have wonderful relationships and as people get older, if they sell their house on the beach and move to a small town like Sag Harbor, for example, the new couple comes in to meet me.  I sort of come with the house!”  She quickly adds that the older couples still visit.
Anna and the Cookshop are part of the local culture – she is a recognized and much loved Hamptons folklore.

Looking back, she remembers when she first opened the store, there was a farmer who came and wanted to sell her eggs.  And she has been buying eggs from him ever since.  And there is a beekeeper in Sag Harbor that delivers fresh honey to her.  A lot of that kind of original charm continues to this day.  It’s a way of life preserved that is dear to Anna. 
She also enjoys walking to some of the farmers, while some of them also bring fresh food directly to her.   Just down the road from her is Pikes Farm in Sagaponick, for example.  She walks there on Monday morning and buys her tomatoes lettuce, corn, beans; running a tab with farmer Jim Pike.   He delivers to Cookshop on Wednesdays and both Saturday and Sunday every weekend in the summer.
“He grows wonderful produce.  He has the highest quality,” she claims happily.
She relies on Pikes to grow the basics for her.  And on occasion, she will bring seeds to Pikes, asking them to grow a new vegetable or a variety, as she did when she first brought leeks to the area.
It seems curious now but at the time she moved to Long Island, no one even knew what leeks were, she said.   By the same token, she had never seen an eggplant in her life until she arrived in the Hamptons.  “So you see, there is a lot of back and forth. An exchange of ideas. We all learn from each other here,” she added.  

“In summer we “Do” summer food,” she exclaims matter-of-factly.  It follows then that she’d provide seasonal food for a variety of reasons including family and cultural traditions, pride of Long Island’s farming and fishing bounty, and her culinary artistry. 
At Cookshop, she changes her gourmet take-out menu recipes every week and posts the entire listings online.
Inspired by the unending variety of fresh homegrown ingredients, Anna has thousands of recipes in her repertoire she can refer to. And while she likes making summer foods for her family of Hamptons customers, she makes whatever marks the season or holiday.

“I always start with the ingredients – whatever is fresh.  For instance, in spring ramps are so easy to broil or grill.”  In the colder months, there is a world of stews and casseroles, and casoulettes to explore.
When fall arrives she loves to switch the menu to roasted eggplant, stew, beef bourguignon, and warm lentils with vegetables.  “I just love that time of year -- going from cold to warm food,“ she sighs contentedly. 
In the autumn, she’ll makes rutabagas at home, bring them to the Shop, and people will buy them.  “I curry them or stew them.  People just don’t know what to do with them.” She grows and works with winter vegetables such as the rutabagas, as well as root celery, parsnips, and makes an amazing carrot puree.   The emphasis on an expanded palette of ingredients allows her to give people the opportunity to experience another way of thinking about life – to spend time with family and enjoy the meal together.  “And stews and casseroles can do that.”  She thinks her next cookbook will be on this very subject: winter food. It’s not all tomatoes and goat cheese…

And just like Mother’s home-cooked specialties that hold a special place in our memories, she explains that she has Favorites that her customers would be disappointed if she didn’t make available for them. “The must-haves I will always make, for example, are a pasta salad and a chicken salad -- without mayonnaise. “

“Anna’s way” is what keeps her Hamptons family coming back.  She says she learned over time there is to be no modification when it comes to her culinary offerings. When she first opened, she cooked a split pea with ham soup.   A customer suggested there was too little salt; and the next customer admonished there was too much salt! 
So she learned to do what she wants and what she knows is best.  “I just do it my way. I do exactly what I think I should do,” she said pointedly. 
At this point in her career, her inspiration is her wellspring of experience.  She draws from within, knowing exactly what she thinks is good.

Anna had long conducted cooking classes too but she doesn’t do them anymore; it’s always a lot of work and she now focuses on her business and testing her recipes for the store and her cookbooks that now number four: “Loaves & Fishes,” “Loaves and Fishes Party Cookbook,” “Country Weekend Entertaining” and “Summer on a Platter. “
However her chef and daughter continue to teach food enthusiasts, including teens, how to employ the alchemy of fresh local food and traditional cooking techniques to transform the ingredients into delicious meals.  

One of the remarkable things that make the Hamptons such a sweet spot according to Anna is its proximity to the water and air. The beaches remain very pristine. There are no commercial entities allowed on the beaches in the Saganopick and Southampton area she explains. “People like the ruralness of the area – not only the great beaches but also the local farms and the farm stands and access to the just-picked fruits and vegetables and artisanal cheeses.  “It’s real here,” she adds. 
Anna is real too, and has remained so, amidst a wave of celebrity.

“The Hamptons is exceptionally beautiful,” she further rhapsodizes. 
In early spring, Anna described how’d she’d just picked some ornamental pear tree branches for a bouquet to put in the store. She is equally romantic and enthusiastic about her flowering cherries and chives.  She narrates how her garden herbs of oregano, thyme, and lemon balm are “Eight inches tall already. I have a whole row of that and the sage is coming back.”

There is an enchanting, delicate balance to be found in Anna’s Hamptons:  sophisticated and rural, charming and simple.  

And utterly unforgettable.

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