A Viennese Meat Monopoly
I come from a long line of butchers, and not just Siegmund Kornmehl, the great uncle whose shop Sigmund Freud’s wife patronized. My mother used to talk about her butcher uncles, plural, and now I know for a fact that Rudolf and Martin Kornmehl practiced the trade along with their brother Siegmund; Martin’s sons George and Hans were butchers too. My great grandfather Heinrich — Siegmund, Martin and Rudolf’s father — was also in the meat profession. The tombstone of his wife, Chaye Henriette Kornmehl, says she is a Fleischhauersgattin—butcher’s wife.
I know too that the brothers Kornmehl had multiple shops and supplied meat to a variety of Jewish organizations in Vienna.
Which leads to several questions.
Did my relatives have a meat monopoly in Austria’s capital, an all-beef-sausage syndicate?
And what did it mean to be a butcher in fin-de-siecle Vienna? I don’t visualize a scene from Sinclair Lewis’s The Jungle but I have no image to replace it. Did a kosher butcher personally supervise the ritual slaughter? What was it like to cut meat all day and go to the opera at night? Was it a trade that carried more of a stigma than baker or candlestick maker?
And then there are the questions about the diet of Siegmund Kornmehl’s most famous customer. Records show that Freud ate meat every day. In what dishes? And why, if he was so anti-religion, did he eat kosher meat?
But I don’t intend to focus solely on the distant past in the Meat category. One of my writing specialties is dining but I haven’t had an outlet to muse on such topics as Temple Grandin and humane slaughterhouses, the comparative ethics of meat eating or the ridiculousness of banning foie gras. Look for them here, along with the stories of several meat-related epiphanies I’ve experienced.