In my last post, I mentioned my corned beef bliss at the Second Avenue Deli, my visit to the Leo Baeck Institute, and my planned excursion to the Tenement Museum. In different ways, all three experiences reminded me that I’ve been neglecting the meat portion of this blog — the contemplation of what life might have been like for Viennese butchers and their customers, essential to my mother’s family history. The role of meat in everyday Jewish life and religious ritual, past and present, is important too.
I will work to correct that omission during the next weeks. In a nod to Ruth Ozeki and her wonderful My Year of Meats, April will be My Month of (Mostly) Meats. As anyone who read the book knows, the title is a bit ironic. Meat does not come across well in Ozeki’s work.
Some things I plan to discuss for certain:
- My mother’s experience with her butcher uncles. Like meat in Ozeki’s book, they do not always come off well.
- Jews and foie gras.
Some things I plan to research:
- The requirements of becoming a butcher in late-19th- and early-20th-century Europe, including certifications and degrees.
- Trade unions for butchers.
- The difference between the practices of kosher butchers and nonkosher butchers (or, in the case of at least one uncle, straddling both worlds).
- The difference between city butchers and country butchers.
- The relation of kosher butchers to shochets (ritual slaughterers) in different places.
- Blood libel and Jewish butchers.
I understand that there will be some who will be put off by these topics. That’s apparently what happened in this Nolita establishment, which is strictly vegetarian.