If you’re very squeamish, or if you believe that Jews should eat only kosher food, then the film “Meat Hooked!” is not for you. Otherwise, you’ll find it an interesting cinematic study on the renaissance of the art of (non-kosher) butchering.
Filmgoers will have a chance to catch a screening of the 2012 documentary as part of a food-focused film marathon at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on March 9. The other films to be shown are Trever Graham’s “Make Hummus Not War” and Ari A. Cohen’s “Falafel! Give Peas a Chance.”
Of late, there has been plenty of talk about organic and sustainable farming, pasture-raised cattle, and nose-to-tail restaurant cooking, but few of us actually watch how an animal gets from the field to the plate. “Meat Hooked!” provides more than just a passing glance at the process. It ain’t a pretty sight, but it’s eye-opening in many ways — not only for what we learn about how a carcass is carved up, but also about what drives certain people to want to wield a cleaver day in and day out.
“This is a film about meat. And about the rise and fall and rise again of butchers and butchering,” says director Suzanne Wasserman in the voiceover for the introduction to the film. Wasserman is director of the Gotham Center for New York City History and an expert on the history of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
Galkoff’s kosher butcher in Liverpool that once supplied the Titanic with meat hasn’t sold a Shabbos brisket — or anything for that matter — since it closed its doors 35 years. But, the building’s historic façade, won’t be going anywhere anytime soon thanks to a donation from philanthropist Isaac Wolfson.
English Heritage recently ruled the building to be of national importance. It sold kosher meat to the Merseyside’s Jewish community from 1912 until it closed in 1979 and, importantly, to the famous Titanic ship.
Discussions are still underway between the Tropical Medicine Institution, which recently purchased the building, and English Heritage on how to best preserve the iconic and historic site.
But, hold up a minute… there was kosher meat aboard the Titanic?
Despite the ship’s famous yet tragic voyage, most have probably never even heard about its Jewish passengers, let alone the ship’s kosher meals service — complete with separate utensils and rabbinical inspection. But reportedly among the 2,225 people aboard, there were enough Jewish passengers to warrant a “Hebrew cook,” Charles Kennell, according to an article in the Dayton Jewish Observer.
Kosher food option on ships wasn’t uncommon in 1912 — midway through the great wave of Eastern European Jewish immigration, when major passenger lines crossing the Atlantic began offering kosher services to their Jewish passengers.
Before then, the faithful, most often riding in third-class steerage, would pack their own kosher food, sometimes making for dangerous or even deadly voyages.
Little is known about the Jewish passengers aborad the Titan. But the day after the ship went down, an article published in The New York Times reported that “A score of the Titanic’s steerage were taken to the Hebrew Sheltering Home and Immigrant Aid Society, 229 East Broadway for the night.”
Located in the tony 17th Arrondissement, a ten minute walk from the Etoile, in a neighborhood both residential and commercial, Boucherie Levy stands next to a store selling Judaica. While France’s kosher authorities have certified more than two dozen delicatessen and butcher shops in Paris, this is perhaps the most beloved, and with good reason.
By New York deli standards (think Zabar’s), the corner shop is small but inviting thanks to large bay windows, a white tile floor and brightly lit display cases overflowing with fresh meat and take out preparations. Here, you’ll find an array of Jewish comfort food like pickled beef brisket and chopped chicken liver, together with traditional French specialties such as foie gras.
On one side of the shop, I noticed paper thin garnet slices of beef carpaccio for two (10 euros or about $12), on the other, a rosy chunk of braised veal labeled ‘veau à l’os’, that I thought could be mistaken for (God forbid)… ham. Next to that, was another of the shop’s exclusive specialties: foie gras speckled with candied fruit like apricot or figs.
Jews are famous for their love of meat and potatoes (cholent, anyone?). But how many of us know how to pick the perfect cut of meat for any particular occasion?
Hoping to move beyond our butcher’s pre-packaged meat selections, we talked with Larry Reyes, head butcher of Manhattan’s newly opened Prime Butcher Baker market — with a butcher counter specializing in dry-aged steaks — about what makes for a good piece of meat, how to work with less expensive cuts, and more.
Before starting at Prime Butcher Baker, Reyes worked at nearby butcher Park East Kosher Butcher and before that, he worked at gourmet (and non-kosher) market Citarella.