The Very Best Books For Your Viennese, Jewish, and Culinary Therapy
HERE’S a tiny selection of good reads and references for your investigation of Vienna, Sigmund Freud, his cooking and favorite foods, the city’s culture and history, on Jewish, Hungarian, Italian and other influences on local cuisine, and on cooking in general, as they pertain to a Viennese foodnik’s therapy. With some painful exceptions, all books are in English.
Surprising culinary perspectives on psychoanalysis and its founder: Did you ever read Freud’s own cookbook – available in English? Though, a serious further investigation of Freud’s food related habits will require some German skills.
You might also want to have a look at this surrealist view on psychoanalysis and food:
Freud bought the cookbook Deutsche Kochschule for his wife Martha in the 1890’s. The Freuds used this cookbook until Anna’s death in 1982.
Later, in 1933, Freud added Après Souperto the household’s cookbook collection. It was a present he made to their cook Frau Bader, who left the family that year because it was no longer befitting to work for Jews. Faithfull Paula Fichtl, who had entered the household in 1929, took over the cooking until Anna’s death (see Behlinger-Fischer).
This is the type of cuisine that constituted the daily fair of the assimilated Viennese Jewish families, like the Freuds. Their cook Paula Fichtl had trained with the gentlefolk. No doubt, this is where a Viennese salonière like Bertha Zuckerkandl or her cooks for that matter, would have looked for inspiration too. Hence, there are quite a few very Viennese recipes preserved in a famous book written against all odds, In Memory’s Kitchen – A Legacy from the Women of Terezin, edited by Cara de Silva (New York: Aronson, 1996).
* Interestingly, Marcia Colman Morton’s husband was Austrian-born American writer Frederic Morton.
Sigmund Freud’s lifetime is also the period Vienna is most famous for. It was the time when Vienna produced the ideas that shaped the West. Consequently, the number of publications on the topic is vast and manifold. Coincidentally, right on time to feed those ideas, it was during those same decades that classic Viennese cuisine emerges as we know it today.
The two main characteristics of the city are described by cabaret artist George Kreisler singing Death must be a Viennese (Der Tod, das muss ein Wiener sein) and How nice Vienna would be without Viennese (Wie schön wäre Wien ohne Wiener). All that while continuously ranking at the top of various worldwide quality of life indexes, and me not wanting to move. But “I won’t let my Vienna be sugarcoated for me by any study in the world. Certainly not!”1
As a general introduction to the country as a whole, one might want to read Steven Beller’s A Concise History of Austria(Cambridge University Press, 2007).
If you are tired of reading, you can complement your study with a look at the photographs by Martin Parr in his Cakes & Balls: Martin Parr in Vienna (Vienna: Anzenbergeredition, 2016. ISBN 978-3-9503876-2-9), a concise summary of the essence of contemporary Vienna in just a few pictures.
“Nine-tenths of what the world of the 19th century celebrated as Viennese culture was in fact culture promoted and nurtured or even created by the Jews of Vienna,” wrote Stefan Zweig to his publisher before his suicide. “My Vienna is a bleeding joke, a wound that won’t heel”, added writer Robert Schindel a few years back.
The artistic landscape is very varied, from Freud’s contemporaries like Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Gustav Klimt, and Koloman Moser through the Vienna Secession, the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, Arik Brauer and Friedensreich Hundertwasser, to the Vienna Actionism, contemporaries such as Valie Export, Maria Lassnig, Hermann Nitsch, Arnulf Rainer, Franz West, Erwin Wurm, and Heimo Zobernig, and finally young artists like Verena Dengler.
Big names in Viennese architecture and Wiener Werkstätte are Adolf Loos, Josef Hoffmann, Otto Wagner, and today Coop Himmelb(l)au.
Vienna: City of Music
A great number of composers in Western music – from Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, through the Strauss family, Brahms, Bruckner and Wolf, to Mahler, Lehár, Schoenberg, Webern, Berg and today Olga Neuwirth – are associated with the city. While it was also the birthplace of musicians like Fritz Kreisler, music didn’t play a significant rôle in Sigmund Freud’s life, although he lived in Vienna for almost eighty years.
Next to venerable names such as the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, the Staatsoper, the Musikverein etc, the city offers also less dusty institutions, like the Klangforum, or the Concentus Musicus founded by the pioneer of the Early Music, Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Friedrich Gulda and Joe Zawinul, the jazz keyboardist and composer, were also from Vienna.
Also, proper to Vienna, there is popular folk music called Schrammelmusik, which is traditionally played with an accordion and a double-necked guitar. This is the music of the Heuriger, a Viennese tavern, where a local winemaker serves his new wine (see my post Vienna Woods Vineyard Heuriger). Furthermore, there’s the Wienerlied, a popular song genre unique to the city. Lastly, there is a number of successful Viennese cabaret artists and chansonniers, like Hermann Leopoldi.
Kaffeehaus: Viennese Café Culture
The central cultural and intellectual rôle played by the Viennese coffee house is stressed in a number of texts already referenced here, for example in Timms’ Karl Kraus and Johnston’s The Austrian Mind. The Viennese coffee house, the Kaffeehaus, is a very special beast, remotely related to the Parisian café and the American coffee shop. It was flourishing in Fin-de-Sciècle Vienna and it still is a very important institution today. Though today it is a pale reminder of what pre-Second World War coffee-house culture used to be, before the aryanisation, expulsion, and murder of Vienna’s Jews, intellectuals, and every other undesired element. The coffee-house, this extension of one’s living room and office is the only true public space for Viennese (Read Jürgen Habermas’ 1962 textThe Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere on this). It’s where press conferences are held, where lovers meet, where the arts and politics are made. Centered on the sweet side of things and the corresponding recipes, there’s Rick Rodgers’ Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. Unfortunately, most noteworthy publications are in German:
The coffee house in a broader European and international context
Vienna: Memoirs and Biographies
Stefan Zweig’s World of Yesterday: Memories of a European is no doubt a must read.
Friedrich Torberg’s Tante Jolesch or The Decline of the West in Anecdotes is part of popular Viennese culture.
But, try the refreshing translation by Joyce Crick, who already worked on Kafka and the Grimms. Her translation closely follows Freud’s very particular literary style, which, if you ever read a piece of the German original, was obviously of the utmost importance to him.
Also, if you read Peter Gay on Freud, you should try to read Élisabeth Roudinesco’s highly acclaimed Freud, In His Time and Ours if you haven’t done so yet.
Cookbooks by the leading figure of Jewish food writing shaped the narrative of Jewish cuisine of the past decades:
Sweet Vienna: Desserts and Pastries
No contest, Vienna is the world’s capital for all things sweet. Even the French, who, granted, have got Pierre Hermé, call their pastries viennoiseries, or “things of Vienna”. Sigmund Freud’s dessert was apple strudel with Schlag, whipped cream (See my article on Crispy Viennese Apple Strudel). Here in Vienna, people do eat sweet things as the main course! Today Vienna is the city with the most ice cream parlors per capita in the world. Freud himself loved homemade vanilla parfait. If you are looking for the classic on cakes in general, the cake bible has been written by Rose Levy Beranbaum.
* Incidentally, Marcia Colman Morton’s husband was Austrian-born American writer Frederic Morton.
Italian Jewish Cooking
Italy was always very present in the Viennese cuisine and Sigmund Freud’s dreams and voyages. Once one has cooked and read the Italian recipes found in Claudia Roden’s, The Book of Jewish Food or Joan Nathan’s, King Solomon’s Table, one will inevitably turn to the books bellow. Not listed is Claudia Roden’s 2014 The Food of Italy. Region by Region, because, though the book is a major source of information, it does not focus on Jewish cooking. Missing for the same reason is the classic must-read cookbook on Italian cuisine Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
I’ll add one more Venetian cookbook, though not focusing on Jewish cuisine at all, it is one of my favorite cookbooks on the Serenissima. It’s Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (Of Sorts) by Russell Norman.
Jewish Vegetarianism (and even Veganism)
A few wonderful books on this important and very popular topic.
During those years, Vienna became the birthplace of psychoanalysis, waltz, tortes and schnitzel, the novels of Schnitzler, and modern-day anti-Semitism among many other ideas that shaped the West:
Other famous Viennese (and a cat)
Here are a few more Viennese who haven’t been mentioned elsewhere on this page. Christoph Waltz, the perfect villain with an Austrian accent is one of them. (If you don’t know who Christoph Waltz is, it’s about time to watch Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.)
Vienna: Empire, Dynasty and Dream. Episode 1: Vienna the beating heartbeat of Europe (52mn). Episode 2: The crafting of music in Vienna (1h51mn). Episode: Vienna in 1908 (2h03mn).
Vienna: Selected Movies
The following movies are set in Vienna. The Wedding March by Erich von Stroheim is my favorite movie on this list. But there are quite some famous filmmakers from Vienna: Michael Haneke, Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, Ulrich Seidl, Erich von Stroheim, Otto Preminger, Josef von Sternberg, Fred Zinnemann, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, Peter Kubelka, Axel Corti, Peter Tscherkassky, Martin Arnold, and Ruth Beckermann among others.
Of historic interest only, is the recently saved, expressionist The City Without Jews (Die Stadt ohne Juden) from 1924. The film closely follows Hugo Bettauer’s eponymous novel, but adds a happy ending to the book, and thus turns it into “[…] a prime example of the Austrian soul’s ability to repress. This naïve and perhaps crude experiment from 1924 can be taken as a forerunner of what was generally practiced after World War II in the country ohne Eigenschaften” 2
Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known to her family as “Sissi”, entered popular culture with this series of three films that started in 1955. Historical accuracy is not a quality of the film, but as critiques have always pointed out, kitsch is. Even Sissi herself, the lead actress Romy Schneider, who became synonymous with her role, desperately tried to distance her work from that image. According to Wikipedia Sissi is one of the most successful German-speaking movies ever made. I’d much rather see the original Sissi comedy movie, The King Steps Out (1936), albeit a minor Josef von Sternberg, another famous Viennese in Hollywood.
Sigmund Freud – Auf den Spuren des berühmten Psychoanalytikers (Koschka Hetzer-Molden, 2006). TV documentary approved by the Sigmund Freud Privatstiftung Wien and the Goethe-Institut.
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Comment by user fabian f. in the forum of Austrian newspaper Der Standard on March 14 2017, upon reading that Vienna ranks at the top position of Mercer’s quality of life study for the eighth year in a row.
Thomas Ballhausen, Günter Krenn: (Alb)Traumhaft: Die Stadt ohne Juden. In: Medienimpulse, Heft Nr. 57, September 2006, pp. 35 – 39 (digitised, viewed on 19 January 2008)