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Family Recipe Series: Ed Tettemer

In anticipation of our April 11th Edible World event, Sunday Supper and Family Lore, the First Person Blog will feature the stories and family recipes of Philly food personalities. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, look out for recipes from the likes of chefs, writers and people who just love eating, making and talking about food and family.

Today we are featuring Ed Tettemer and his recipe for Beach Bean Soup. Ed is a writer and independent consultant but cooks for the Strathmere Volunteer Fire Company and caters private dinner parties, for which he was recently featured in the Inky. I dig his whimsical, folksy way of talking about food. Come back on Friday when we feature Snackbar chef John Taus’ update of his grandmother’s pierogies.

Want to be like our Philly Foodies? Share a family recipe at our Edible World event! Send your recipe, story and a photo to Karina by April 2nd! Reserve your seat at the event here.

Ed at play in the kitchen

Ed at play in the kitchen

I love to cook for friends, family, heck – anyone with taste buds and a happy hunger.

I learned the joy of cooking by motherly osmosis. Ours was a resourceful household, always with a large garden fertilized by some potent horse manure from Jigs Kentop’s farm up the street. Jigs had some big draft horses that sure knew how to poop. I can still smell the aroma of our freshly fertilized garden – what my mother called “Vitamin M.”

And out of that garden came a plenty. Big-boy, early-girl, beefsteak big Italian plum and bite-size cherry tomatoes. Pole beans and Swiss chard, red beets and Brussels sprouts and broccoli and okra, from plants with enormous tropical fronds. And in the spring, rhubarb.

My dad would put a sign at the end of the driveway: “Rhubarb 75¢ a bag.” Same price every year I remember. Why 75¢? Who knows, but the same folks would pull in that driveway and get themselves six bits worth of rhubarb every single year.

My dad believed if we were gonna have trees, they might as well be fruit trees. Apple dumplings and peach dumplings with fresh cream made dinner more like dessert. We’d go fishing a couple nights a week and fill the freezer with Neshaminy Creek sunnies and catfish. Every Friday a fish fry. And mom knew exactly how long after a good rain it took for the mushrooms to pop up. She’d hand us cotton sacks and lead us out to harvest while the meadow grass was still wet. A coffee can of bacon drippings stood ready by the stove, and nothing beats those wild mushrooms sauteed in bacon drippings, with garlic and onion and a mother’s love.

If she cooked a ham or a chicken or anything with a bone, I knew it wouldn’t be more than a day or two till we had soup. Noodle soup or bean soup or split pea on a cold day. No two soups were ever the same, as the stock depended on whatever tasty scraps were saved up during the week.

I had to start cooking when I left home in full ‘70s dropout mode. It was campfire cooking and then tiny-apartment cooking and lots of weird casseroles. I kept the drippings by the stove and a jar for table scraps in the fridge, so I could make my “garbage soup” every Sunday. It was my ritual of self-reliance for a few years until I learned to make soup with fresher ingredients: butternut squash with baked apples pureed with coconut milk, homemade chicken stock and Thai curry. Ask my wife; now that’s soup.

Sometimes I think my daughter visits just for the egg sandwich I can’t wait to make her in the same iron skillet my mother used to cook those mushrooms.

35 years along and I’d rather cook for a crowd than do anything else. I cook for our volunteer fire company and I’m proud to report attendance at drill night has doubled since I started in with the sweet potato gratin with bay leaf cream, steamed clam chowder and spicy Vietnamese noodle soups. Ben Franklin insisted his fire companies bond over good food. Men who eat together know who they can trust when the fire hits the fan.

Some paint, others work with clay. I create by scrounging the fridge and pantry and poking around Chinatown. Hmm, chicken backs, 69¢ a pound. Plantains, pitch black and just ripe for a hot pan with glistening peanut oil. And look at all this fennel and bok choy. Oddball food is my palette. The stockpot is my medium. I love knowing that someone may do something great in life with the caloric inspiration my art has provided.

Yeah, I do love to cook. So do me a favor, won’t you? Next time you’ve got 10 or 15 people coming over, ask me to put something on the table for ‘em. I’ll have a blast watching it disappear.

Beach Bean Soup
This is really, really good.

• A few strips of good bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
• 1 good sweet onion, finely chopped
• 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
• A bunch of garlic chopped up
• 2 garlic cloves, chopped
• 2 1/2 cups dried beans, such as baby limas, navy or pinto, (or any combo)
soaked overnight in water 2” higher than the beans
• 6 to 8 cups homemade chicken stock
• A good shake of red pepper flakes
• 2 bay leaves (fresh if you can find ‘em)
• 1 teaspoon brown sugar or molasses
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• A good meaty hambone from your leftover Sunday dinner
• 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped pungent fresh herbs: rosemary, thyme, savory or sage, in any combination

1. In a large Dutch oven, cook the bacon, covered, over low heat, stirring
occasionally until the fat has rendered out and the pancetta is fairly crisp, about 15 minutes; with a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta to a bowl. Add the onion, carrots and garlic to the pan, cover and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft but not browned, about 15 minutes.

2. Drain the soaked beans and add to the pan, along with 6 or 8 cups of good stock, the pepper flakes, bay leaves, sugar and the cooked bacon. Add your ham bone now. Bring to a simmer, partially cover, and cook until the soup begins to thicken and the beans are soft, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Add more chicken stock as necessary to achieve the consistency you prefer. After 1 hour of cooking, stir in the salt. And skim off the fatty scum whenever you see it.

3. Add the herbs during the last half-hour of cooking. Cooked vegetables can be added now to let the flavors marry. (I like to sauté peppers and such, even a jalapeño. Cook ‘em till they’re really good and soft, even caramelized. Toss ‘em in the pot and give it a stir.)

4. Serve with a good crusty bread and good chewy red wine. Yum yum eat ‘em up.

5. Oh, make sure you make this soup at the beach, on a windy and chilly day.
Preferably with Charlie Parker playing real loud on the hi-fi. Otherwise, it’s just really good bean soup, not beach bean soup.

– Ed Tettemer

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