Last summer I had the opportunity to interview Anna Pump, Bridgehampton Innkeeper, cookbook author and Loaves & Fishes Foodstore owner, at her shop in Sagaponack. I’d long been a fan of Pump’s cookbooks and I’d had the pleasure of working with her when I was the program director of the Bridgehampton Historical Society (now the Bridgehampton Museum).
Anna Pump’s journey to the South Fork began in Tarp, Germany. Anna Tuitjer was raised on a farm in an area near the Danish border that, much like Bridgehampton, was a narrow strip of land between two bodies of water. There she met and married Detlef Pump. Detlef, Anna and their two children, Harm and Sybille, emigrated to the United States in 1960, initially settling in Frenchtown, NJ, near Detlef’s brother. Pump first visited the East End in the 1970s. She and her husband bought and restored an 18th century house in Noyac in 1978.
Pump did not attend cooking school—like many young ladies of her generation, she attended finishing school. Later, however, she studied under James Beard, Anna Maria Huste and Maurice Moore-Betty. Pump also famously mentored “Barefoot Contessa” Ina Garten when Garten’s shop was in Westhampton Beach.
It was at my suggestion that Dan’s Papers chose to honor Pump at our 2014 Dan’s Taste of Summer celebration for her many contributions to the culinary culture of the East End. And when she was made the honoree, I insisted on doing her interview. It seemed a rare thing for this dynamo to sit down. I certainly wanted to be there.
I entered the front of the store and noted how it has evolved over the years. In some ways it’s about the same. Same old building painted white and filled with handmade, gourmet dishes and condiments. This place was chic long before “shabby chic” was a recognized style. But some of the offerings have changed. Pump was always tinkering with recipes and developing new ones. Until her tragic death last week, she had been at work on her next cookbook, which she told me would include many Asian influences that came to her by way of her grandsons’ travels in China and Vietnam.
Pump invited me into her office behind the counters. I was gratified to see that we owned many of the same cookbooks, but hers were lined up on a great shelf that ran the length of her office’s longest wall. The collection was well worn, but very neatly arrayed. She decided that since it was a nice day we should sit at a picnic table under a tree, next to the shop. We passed her grandson Stefan who was
in charge of the kitchen as we exited the store. He was smiling.
Pump was clearly relieved when my questions made it apparent that I had read all of her four cookbooks cover to cover. She relaxed, sometimes saying, “don’t write this” before confiding a little something—nothing at all inappropriate but some small, private things. Like the fact that she considered her workers from Ecuador part of her family. She pointed out that the very first thing she did when she took over the shop was to plant an herb garden to supply the kitchen. She also said that the growing gluten-free diet trend was “just a fad. Print that!”
When I asked her which of her own mother’s recipes she still followed she shared that the pretty girl I’d met at the counter was her granddaughter. Karina was home from college for the summer and baking up her great-grandmother’s cardamom bread for customers.
Pump was clearly very proud of her family and their work. Pump’s Loaves & Fishes has been quietly serving the gourmet take-out and catering needs of East End foodies since 1980. Pump and her daughter Sybille van Kempen, with the support of Pump’s late husband Detlef, added the Bridgehampton Inn to their business holdings in 1994. The six-room establishment quickly became a destination hotel. Pump detailed the Inn’s opening and its day-to-day workings in her book Country Weekend Entertaining, which was published by Doubleday in 1999.
Last year, when I asked Sybille if she was “becoming her mother,” she said, “I guess I am, in a way I’ve always been. I think that [comparison] is a wonderful compliment.”
Sybille and her husband Gerrit opened the popular kitchenalia emporium, Loaves & Fishes Cookshop in Bridgehampton’s downtown in 2003. Last year Sybille opened a restaurant at the Inn and added a new construction of six additional guest rooms and a storefront, moving the cookshop to just west of the inn’s main entrance. Her son Kyle works at the restaurant as bartender and mixologist. Pump’s son Harm and his wife, Nancy, create Loaves & Fishes line of jams, apple butter and pickles.
While Pump accomplished many things in her career, when asked what she was most proud of, she immediately responded, “Doing Loaves & Fishes. I’m very fond of my customers and they’re very loyal.” Pump noted with pride that she had watched generations of her young customers grow up to visit with their own children. When asked to comment on her position as the head of a food dynasty, Pump said, “It has all come by evolving. I just love good food.”