The Freuds’ Tafelspitz – Vienna’s Imperial Simmered Beef: Sigmund Freud, his wife Martha Bernays and their butcher Siegmund Kornmehl (Recipe) #BoiledBeef #PoachedBeef #Horseradish

This juicy, “saftig” in German (of utmost importance here!), and lean Viennese beef cut is called Mageres Meisel (or Mäuserl) and is a typical piece of meat served as boiled beef. Here I serve it with a small ladle of soup, topped with chives, coarse sea salt, alongside a potato rösti (a latke) and, of course, horseradish (I had my beloved apple-horseradish and beet-horseradish just outside the frame).

 

with the recipe for tafelspitz, Vienna’s poached beef

PEYMANN
What do you recommend to me then Bernhard
ME
Tafelspitz
PEYMANN
Then we eat Tafelspitz

Thomas Bernhard, Claus Peymann buys a pair of trousers for himself and goes to eat with me (1989)1

As on every Sunday, there was boiled beef with vegetables.

Joseph Roth, The Radetzky March (1932)

THIS potentially dreary Viennese dish of boiled beef, called tafelspitz, is made here with high-grade cuts of meat, which are poached for hours to an almost unnatural tenderness, plated in a rich beef consommé, and served topped with sea salt crystals, chives, apple-horseradish and the contrasting texture of a crispy potato rösti cake. Kurt Gutenbrunner, the New York-based Austrian celebrity chef, describes tafelspitz as “a dish with a lot going on: it’s hot, cold, spicy, creamy, crunchy and soft“.2 The meat is so tender that Franz Joseph I of Austria (1830-1916) ate it only with a fork — leaving the emperor’s knife to be used as a mirror. (Did he check on his fabulous beard?) It also suited Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, when he suffered from jaw cancer.  It is the very first meat recipe in the cookbook Deutsche Kochschule, which Freud offered to his wife Martha Bernays after their marriage.3

The very recipe from the same cookbook the Freuds used from 1894 until 1982 when Anna died in London. The boiled beef (tafelspitz) recipe is the first meat recipe here in the “Deutsche Kochschule”.
The very recipe from the same cookbook the Freuds used from 1894 until 1982 when Anna died in London. The boiled beef (tafelspitz) recipe is the first meat recipe here in the “Deutsche Kochschule”.

Despite any preconceptions you might have about boiled beef, let me assure you that nothing is dry or grey in an authentic Viennese tafelspitz. Despite the name, it isn’t even technically boiled. The meat gets only very, very gently poachedgesotten as it’s called in Vienna.4 Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean there is no such thing as bad tafelspitz. Among many others famous epicureans and gastronomes, Brillat-Savarin5 was horrified by the boiled beef he tried. Rightly so, for a meat so brutally cooked down to nothing but dry, flavorless shreds of an unsightly grey mass.

Many cuisines have their own delicious versions of boiled beef. There’s pot-au-feu in France, bollito in Italy and boiled beef in England. The minimalist, centuries-old Viennese technique is to poach the meat in a quick stock of meaty bones (or even oxtail), always waiting to add the meat until the stock boils, to seal its pores.6 The English daily newspaper The Guardian calls this “boiled beef in its purest form”.7

Here I served a finger-thick slice of simmered tafelspitz meat with just-cooked root vegetables and my favorite cold apple-horseradish sauce. Sprinkle the slice of meat with coarse sea salt. A high-quality finishing salt would be most appropriate here!
Here I served a finger-thick slice of simmered tafelspitz meat with just-cooked root vegetables and my favorite cold apple-horseradish sauce. Sprinkle the slice of meat with coarse sea salt. A high-quality finishing salt would be most appropriate here!

The Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and King of Hungary ate tafelspitz almost every day for dinner. In his menu, it was noted in French as pièce de boeuf garnie.8 His predecessors had loved boiled beef and beef bouillon as well, including Empress Maria Theresa, the mother of Marie Antoinette.9 In the late 19th century and early 20th, anybody wishing to express his loyalty to the empire had tafelspitz too, mostly for lunch. Even with its royal connotations, beef also happened to be very affordable for most Viennese.

I can't help but notice that the emperor's iconic mustache seems perfect for enjoying boiled beef, without a beard to get in the way of the spooning of soup and the subsequent wiping of the chin. (Circa 1905. Credit: Library of Congress)
I can’t help but notice that the emperor’s iconic mustache seems perfect for enjoying boiled beef, without a beard to get in the way of the spooning of soup and the subsequent wiping of the chin. (Circa 1905. Credit: Library of Congress)
Franz-Josef I and Elisabeth "Sisi" of Austria and Hungary at the table. As the emperor ate tafelspitz almost every day, this certainly must be the famous Viennese boiled beef dish in those soup plates.
Franz-Josef I and Elisabeth “Sisi” of Austria and Hungary at the table. As the emperor ate tafelspitz almost every day, this certainly must be the famous Viennese boiled beef dish in those soup plates.

Arguably, in this fin-de-siècle ambiance, tafelspitz was not only a dish but a lifestyle and a political statement. An average bourgeois household in the Austro-Hungarian empire ate poached beef with its accompanying garnishes and bouillon every Monday through Thursday up to the end of the Second World War.10 Sigmund Freud too was known for his predilection for Viennese imperial boiled beef. Like the emperor, the Freuds and other Jewish families, more or less assimilated, ate beef bouillon and its meat with different sides and sauces up to four times a week.11

Freud’s affinity for tafelspitz probably had a lot to do with its straightforward beefy taste, but I think he very likely also realized the phallic imagery of the accompanying root vegetables. “Tafelspitz” literally translates to “tip (of meat) for the table”.12 Just think of how the mighty horseradish root is the object of a manly competition of who dares to eat more every Pessach (Passover).13

The powerful horseradish is a must with every tafelspitz, Vienna's imperial boiled beef. This one is a mighty specimen.
The powerful horseradish is a must with every tafelspitz, Vienna’s imperial boiled beef. This one is a mighty specimen.
Lovage is the classic herb for Viennese boiled beef with its root vegetables. It tastes like a cross between parsley and celery, but more intense. The German name for lovage is "Liebstöckel" or "Maggikraut", but also "Luststock." Lieb is love(ly) and "Lust" is, well, lust. "Stock" being stick, it comes out as lust-stick. I'm certain that Freud was aware of it!
Lovage is the classic herb for Viennese boiled beef with its root vegetables. It tastes like a cross between parsley and celery, but more intense. The German name for lovage is “Liebstöckel” or “Maggikraut”, but also “Luststock.” Lieb is love(ly) and “Lust” is, well, lust. “Stock” being stick, it comes out as lust-stick. I’m certain that Freud was aware of it!
Prayer in honor of Kaiser Franz Joseph I, for his 60 years on the throne.
Prayer in honor of Kaiser Franz Joseph I, for his 60 years on the throne.

But Freud must also have had childhood memories of chrain14 and potato kugel (or kigel)15 come up while eating the horseradish and the rösti or hash browns that obligatorily go along with tafelspitz. Hence, this dish closely resembles classic Central European Yom Tov (Jewish holiday) fair, especially on Passover because of the horseradish.

In this sense, tafelspitz was the taste of a Jewish mother’s kitchen, but in another sense, it was also a token of mainstream Viennese society. Thus, it was the flavor of Jewish assimilation. The Jews of the empire have been Franz Joseph’s exemplary subjects moving and settling all over the empire’s multicultural territories, speaking its multiple languages, being cosmopolitan, turning towards the authority for protection and even reciting prayers for the state and its regent on every occasion.16

Prayer in Hebrew for Franz Joseph I on an old Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) postcard from Hungary.
Prayer in Hebrew for Franz Joseph I on an old Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) postcard from Hungary.
Hardly any dish is more appropriate for the Seder than this elegant boiled beef traditionally accompanied by horseradish. No doubt this loyal family will eat tafelspitz for the Seder in their typical Austro-Hungarian home, with portraits of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Emperor Franz Joseph on the wall and the Prophet Elijah at the door (in Claudia Roden, "<a href="https://www.amazon.de/Book-Jewish-Food-Odyssey-Samarkand/dp/0394532589/ref=sr_1_1?s=books-intl-de&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1506681160&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=The+Book+of+Jewish+Food" rel="noopener">The Book of Jewish Food</a>"; New York: Knopf, 1996; p.51).
Hardly any dish is more appropriate for the Seder than this elegant boiled beef traditionally accompanied by horseradish. No doubt this loyal family will eat tafelspitz for the Seder in their typical Austro-Hungarian home, with portraits of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Emperor Franz Joseph on the wall and the Prophet Elijah at the door (in Claudia Roden, “The Book of Jewish Food“; New York: Knopf, 1996; p.51).

In a Freudian twist, Freud’s taste for tafelspitz was a political statement of sympathy towards the empire, even though his work and theories undermined and dismantled the very foundations of the fin-de-siècle world and its Austro-Hungarian empire. As historian and psychoanalyst Élisabeth Roudinesco puts it, “Freud embodied, in a way, all the aspirations of a generation of Viennese intellectuals haunted by Jewishness, sexuality, the decline of patriarchy, the feminization of society, and finally a common will to explore the deep sources of the human psyche.”17 Thus, eating Franz Joseph’s boiled-beef effectively helped to hold the empire together, while psychoanalysis threatened all of it.

Root vegetables like parsnip, parsley root and yellow turnip for tafelspitz.  Don't worry, all can be easily substituted.  Just see the recipe below.
Root vegetables like parsnip, parsley root and yellow turnip for tafelspitz.  Don’t worry, all can be easily substituted.  Just see the recipe below.

Tafelspitz so easily became a Jewish Viennese dish because of its ingredients. Unlike the French peasant’s comforting pot-au-feu enriched with loads of pork meat and sausages, Viennese cuisine transformed boiled beef into something more elegant, minimalist and, incidentally, palatable even for its Jewish inhabitants. This is because pork meat happened to be almost absent from Viennese cuisine anyway, except for lard, pork schmaltz, ham and the occasional piglet. Pork really only came to Vienna in the post-World War II penuries,18 once the city’s Jews had been deported and murdered.

Try to get high-quality organic carrots for the tafelspitz. Check their taste before you cook them!
Try to get high-quality organic carrots for the tafelspitz. Check their taste before you cook them!

One of the best contemporary incarnations of Viennese boiled beef comes from Austrian chef Kurt Gutenbrunner  and his New York restaurants Wallsé, Blaue Gans, Café Sabarsky and the Upholstery Store.19 Other wonderful interpretations can notably be found at the legendary Hotel Sacher, as well as often on the menu of famous restaurant Steirereck in Vienna’s Stadtpark and a few other restaurants and beisl — a Viennes type of pub — throughout the city.

But it’s always nice to have a refined Austrian cook, maybe even originally from the countryside, like chef Gutenbrunner, come to New York and prepare this local rendition of boiled beef. As if, out of their natural habitat, I find the Austrians less scary.20 In fact, this holds true for anybody, not just for Austrians, myself included. I’ll hazard the opinion that chefs tend to create their best dishes outside of their home countries. Expat chefs’ recipes tend to get much more polished and refined, without losing an iota of their authentic feel and taste. They can’t count on pleasing their supposedly like-minded compatriots while hysterically immersed in the unspoken truths of national grounds. Expatriated and cooking for a metropolitan and cosmopolitan crowd, these chefs have to use clarity and precision to make their case. Nothing, or at least less, is assumed to be understood.

Root vegetables are added to the simmering meat towards the end of the cooking time, so as to get perfectly cooked while still keeping their specific flavors and appearance.
Root vegetables are added to the simmering meat towards the end of the cooking time, so as to get perfectly cooked while still keeping their specific flavors and appearance.

Incidentally, New York chef Kurt Gutenbrunner uses Kavalierspitz (shoulder blade cap), a cut from the hind parts of the animal, in his fabulous book Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna.21 However, different cuts of meat are also used, from the shoulder to the rear of the animal. In fact, the word tafelspitz refers to the tasty cut of beef from the end of the sirloin, the rump. Over time, the word “tafelspitz” simply became the generic term for boiled beef. In New York, this cut goes by the name beef triangle or tri-tip. In Paris, cooks sear this cut like a steak.22 As most Jewish butchers preferred not to deal with the complicated hind parts of the animal — where religion requires them to get rid of some forbidden parts, like tendons23  good cuts for Kosher boiled beef are the popular Schulterscherzl (shoulder blade), the firm and lean Mageres Meisel (chuck tenderloin), and Gutenbrunner’s richly flavored Kavalierspitz (shoulder blade cap).

Viennese cuts of beef (Wiener Teilung) are more intricate than most other cuts around the world. The illustration is from the marvelous out-of-print cookbook by Franz Maier-Bruck <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&amp;field-keywords=3929626276" rel="noopener">Das große Sacher Kochbuch</a></em> (Vienna: Schuler, 1975. p. 215).
Viennese cuts of beef (Wiener Teilung) are more intricate than most other cuts around the world. The illustration is from the marvelous out-of-print cookbook by Franz Maier-Bruck Das große Sacher Kochbuch (Vienna: Schuler, 1975. p. 215).

From a practical and economical point of view, one can easily understand why home cooks and restaurants have adopted this dish. It’s very easy to prepare, and most of the cooking is unattended. Plus, one ends up with two courses: the soup and the meat. It’s perfect when prepared ahead because the meat slices more easily when cold. Reheating or keeping it warm only improves it. This is why many Jews from all around the Austro-Hungarian Empire like to have this dish for the holidays, especially Passover and Sukkos (or Sukkot).

Thus, not surprisingly, Viennese boiled beef made its triumphant entrance into local menus and even Jewish cookbooks. It prominently figures in such diverse sources as the 2nd Ave Deli’s CookbookMarcia Colman-Morton’s The Art of Viennese Cooking, Andras Koerner’s A Taste of the Past: The Daily Life and Cooking of a 19th-Century Hungarian Jewish HomemakerThe New York Times Jewish Cookbook and many more.

Mageres Meisel (chuck tenderloin) for the poached beef. Adding marrow bones is optional but enriches the bouillon and thus the poaching liquid considerably.
Mageres Meisel (chuck tenderloin) for the poached beef. Adding marrow bones is optional but enriches the bouillon and thus the poaching liquid considerably.

Today, there’s a couple of restaurants in Vienna operated by the Plachutta family that are famous for their tafelspitz and other boiled beef cuts. In the late 1980’s, building upon the country’s fondness for tafelspitz, the Plachuttas picked up the traditional preparations and techniques from a famous pre-World War II restaurant, Meissl & Schadn, the most famous of all historical Viennese establishments to have ever served tafelspitz along with 23 (!!) other cuts of boiled beef. Trying to link to the ways of this historic place the Plachutta restaurnats today offer some 14 different classic cuts of beef.24 Each cut has its own levels of juiciness, texture, and meatiness (or beefiness, if you will).

Meissl & Schadn only sourced the finest young oxen fed in dedicated sugar beet fields around Vienna. The meat had to be hung for at least two weeks before being delicately poached. In short, like author Friedrich Torberg said, Meissl & Schadn was the Mecca for beefeaters, attracting the rich and famous. Among the guests were celebrities such as Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Gerhard Hauptmann, Emil Janings, Rudolf Furtwängler and many others.25 Very likely even Sigmund Freud had boiled beef there at least once.

Hotel Meissl Schadn in Vienna around 1900 between Neuer Markt and Kärntnerstraße. Boiled beef temple, where even the emperor came to eat once. The Jewish owners were expropriated in 1938 and the hotel destroyed during the war.
Hotel Meissl & Schadn in Vienna around 1900. A boiled beef temple, where even the emperor dined once. In 1938, this institution was Aryanized, meaning that the so-called “non-Aryans” owners, mainly Jews, were forcefully expulsed and their belongings were given to non-Jews, while the owners were deported and killed, if, as in most cases, they didn’t manage to flee. The few that did come back after the war were treated badly by the thieves and murderers, their heirs and their new bureaucracy. The building was partially destroyed during WWII and subsequently rebuilt as Hotel Europa. (photo: “Meissl & Schadn” in: Wikipedia)

As if the choice between all these cuts of meat was not enough, Tafelspitz also comes with an array of different traditional accompaniments such as hash browns, Viennese creamed spinach, chive sauce, different horseradish sauces etc. In fact, the list of side dishes seems endless.26 The variety of the soup add-ins in Vienna is almost unbelievable. As historian Ingrid Haslinger says, there seem to be “as many as there are days in a year.”27

Philipp Aigner's 1829 patented tafelspitz plate: With this invention, the poached meat and its juices are served in isolation from the accompaniments. It had 6 or 12 outer compartments around the central one. This plate reads beef in the center and, from top left: beets, pea salad, lettuce, caviar, rutabaga, little potatoes with parsley, red cabbage, green peas, carrots, mustard, potato salad, and gherkin. In Franz Maier-Bruck, <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&amp;field-keywords=3929626276" rel="noopener">Das große Sacher Kochbuch</a></em> (Vienna: Schuler 1975) p. 218.
Philipp Aigner’s 1829 patented tafelspitz plate: With this invention, the poached meat and its juices are served in isolation from the accompaniments. It had 6 or 12 outer compartments around the central one. This plate reads beef in the center and, from top left: beets, pea salad, lettuce, caviar, rutabaga, little potatoes with parsley, red cabbage, green peas, carrots, mustard, potato salad, and gherkin. In Franz Maier-Bruck, Das große Sacher Kochbuch (Vienna: Schuler 1975) p. 218.
This recipe always yields two courses: Before the meat, the soup is served. Here with homemade Frittaten egg noodles in the bouillon of Viennese boiled beef. Never ever forget chives on a Viennese's beef bouillon or consommé!
This recipe always yields two courses: Before the meat, the soup is served. Here with homemade Frittaten egg noodles in the bouillon of Viennese boiled beef. Never ever forget chives on a Viennese’s beef bouillon or consommé!

The Freuds too had to rely on this variety of accompaniments, sauces and soup add-ins in order to make boiled beef throughout the week less monotonous. But regarding the meat itself, although, Freud considered kosher food to be unhealthy for body and soul, some kosher meat likely ended up on his table nonetheless. Because, as we learned from At Sigmund Freud’s Table: Lifestyle, Hospitality and Eating Habits of the Founder of Psychoanalysis28 and from the blog Freud’s Butcher,29 His wife Martha Bernays did not always do as he wished, especially since they lived above Siegmund Kornmehl’s butcher shop. Have a look at the famous photograph by Edmund Engelman:

If you look closely you can see what appears to be shanks of ham and speck hanging in the window of Siegmund Kornmehl's butcher shop at Berggasse 19 in Vienna. This is a crop from a well-known <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Berggasse-19-Sigmund-Photographs-Engelman/dp/0226208478/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&amp;ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1506831530&amp;sr=1-1&amp;keywords=0226208478" rel="noopener">photograph by Edmund Engelman</a> taken in May 1938, a couple of weeks after the "Anschluß," the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany on March 12. After 44 years at this address, this shop too was "Aryanized".
If you look closely you can see what appears to be shanks of ham and speck hanging in the window of Siegmund Kornmehl’s butcher shop at Berggasse 19 in Vienna. This is a crop from a well-known photograph by Edmund Engelman taken in May 1938, a couple of weeks after the “Anschluß,” the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany on March 12. After 44 years at this address, this shop too was “Aryanized”.
Butcher shop Fleischhauerei Siegmund Kornmehl ad (from Freud's butcher)
Ad for the kosher branch at Berggasse 15 (not 19) of Siegmund Kornmehl’s butcher shop. The add dates from January 22, 1926, and was published in what then was a key Viennese Jewish newspaper called “Die Wahrheit”. (Found on Freud’s Butcher weblog)

This butcher had another shop just a couple of houses up the hill at Berggasse 15, and it was kosher. Martha Bernays might have sneaked in some kosher meat this way because keeping kosher always was the big point of contention between her and her husband.30 She was the granddaughter of Isaac Bernays, the chief rabbi of Hamburg. She grew up strictly orthodox. Sabbath and the rules of kashrut – the Jewish dietary laws – were scrupulously observed in her family. The marriage to Freud meant, much to her chagrin, that she could not keep up her religious observance. The Freuds’ home at Berggasse was certainly not kosher  as far as the Professor knew.31 Martha would have liked it to be otherwise, but she couldn’t convince her husband and had to do as he wished. Only once Freud died, some fifty years after their marriage, did she light the ritual candles for Shabbos again.32

Adding bones and even meaty bones to the poaching liquid before the meat will enhance the soup a lot.
Adding bones and even meaty bones to the poaching liquid before the meat will enhance the soup a lot.

Today, the former butcher shop of Siegmund Kornmehl at Berggasse 19 is an exhibition space for Vienna’s little Freud museum.33 At the time, Kornmehl was the supplier of kosher meat for the most important and prestigious Jewish institutions in Vienna, like the Jewish hospital and the Jewish community’s home for the elderliy. He managed to escape death in 1938 and fled to Tel Aviv with his wife Helene. Having been robbed of all their possessions by the Nazis, their aids, and the bystanders, they tried almost in vain to get something back after the war. There was a law that made them pay to get their property back! But, as they didn’t have a lot of money, they didn’t get back much in the end. This was the time of the infamous Austrian restitution laws. The allies, especially the US, repeatedly protested the successive laws concerning the stolen properties and belongings.34 Austria’s state treaty had committed the country to restitution, but things only began to get moving as late as the 1960s. And it’s only in 2001 (!!) that the Austrian government had finally agreed to a symbolic compensation of seized tenancy rights. This was obviously too little too late for all of Freud’s neighbors.35

Eating like the emperor, only with my fork (allowing me to indulge in my narcissism by looking at myself in the unused polished knife), this extra tender, juicy and lean Viennese poached beef cut is called "Mageres Meisel (or Mäuserl)." It is a typical cut served as boiled beef. I serve it with a bit of soup, topped with chives, coarse sea salt, <a href="https://schibboleth.com/perfect-potato-latkes-levivot-yiddish-vs-hebrew-schmaltz-vs-oil-recipevideo-erdapfelpuffer/">a potato rösti on the side <em>—</em> a latke to be precise</a> <em>—</em> and, of course, horseradish, apple-horseradish or, like here, beet-horseradish, one of my favorites.
Eating like the emperor, only with my fork (allowing me to indulge in my narcissism by looking at myself in the unused polished knife), this extra tender, juicy and lean Viennese poached beef cut is called “Mageres Meisel (or Mäuserl).” It is a typical cut served as boiled beef. I serve it with a bit of soup, topped with chives, coarse sea salt, a potato rösti on the side  a latke to be precise  and, of course, horseradish, apple-horseradish or, like here, beet-horseradish, one of my favorites.

When I met Edie Jarolim, Siegmund Kornmehl’s relative behind the weblog Freud’s Butcher, last time she was in Vienna, she told me about her plans and ideas, among which was a project for the former butcher shop at Freud’s Berggasse 19. An exhibition of that kind would be essential, in order to remind us at last of an important aspect of Vienna’s lost pre-war Jewish life and identity: That there was such a thing as a non-kosher Jewish butcher shop in Vienna, and that it was situated on the ground floor of the house of one of the most famous godless Jews of all,36 who had boiled beef four times a week just like the emperor, not that it did the Professor any good against the Nazis and the rest of the Viennese mob.

The Sigmund Freud monument and park in Vienna in Summer 2017. Until 1990, when the inscription below the letters Psi and Alpha, which Freud used to abbreviate "psychoanalysis", was finally corrected, it read: "The voice of REASON ("Vernunft") is a soft one". However, Freud wrote: "The voice of INTELLECT ("Intellekt") is a soft one, but it does not rest till it gains a hearing. Finally, after countless succession of rebuffs, it succeeds. This is one of the few points on which one may be optimistic about the future of mankind, but it is in itself a point of no small importance. And from it on can derive other hopes. The primacy of the intellect lies, it is true, in a distant, distant future, but probably not in an infinitely distant one" (The Future of an Illusion, 1927 - p.53). How the substitution of REASON for INTELLECT come about, no one knows. The memorial was unveiled in 1985, 100 years after Sigmund Freud was appointed "Privatdozent" by the University of Vienna. The stela is located right next to the University in the park named after the famous professor.
The Sigmund Freud monument and park in Vienna in Summer 2017. Until 1990, when the inscription below the letters Psi and Alpha, which Freud used to abbreviate “psychoanalysis”, was finally corrected, it read: “The voice of REASON (“Vernunft”) is a soft one”. However, Freud wrote: “The voice of INTELLECT (“Intellekt”) is a soft one, but it does not rest till it gains a hearing. Finally, after countless succession of rebuffs, it succeeds. This is one of the few points on which one may be optimistic about the future of mankind, but it is in itself a point of no small importance. And from it on can derive other hopes. The primacy of the intellect lies, it is true, in a distant, distant future, but probably not in an infinitely distant one” (The Future of an Illusion, 1927 – p.53). How the substitution of REASON for INTELLECT come about, no one knows. The memorial was unveiled in 1985, 100 years after Sigmund Freud was appointed “Privatdozent” by the University of Vienna. The stela is located right next to the University in the park named after the famous professor. (see on google maps ->)

Freud believed until the end that psychoanalysis had “no home that could be more valuable for it than the city in which it was born and grew up.” As he wrote after the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany, “then, suddenly, came the German invasion and Catholicism proved, to use the words of the Bible, ‘a broken reed’. In the certainty that I should now be persecuted not only for my line of thought but also for my ‘race’  accompanied by many of my friends, I left the city which, from my early childhood, had been my home for seventy-eight years.” This proved, as Élisabeth Roudinesco observes, “the degree to which Freud, usually so lucid, was more attached to Vienna and to his Viennese Judaism than he thought, and that his work was, much more than he realized, the product of an immediate history that was out of his control[…]”.37 Roudinesco adds, “But far from adopting the solution of conversion as a response to anti-Semitism, or the solution of Zionism, he redefined himself once again as a Jew without God  a Jew of reflection and knowledge  even as he rejected Jewish self-hatred.”38

Freud remained faithful to a Judaism converted into the Jewishness of the diaspora, according to Roudinesco. Before the threat of the Nazis, he had always refused to leave Vienna but had dreamed of living in England for some time, where a monarchy is tied to a liberal democracy, and that is where he eventually could take refuge. As we have seen, this state of mind translated into Freud’s food habits, his predilections for bourgeois food of the empire. Those of the Freuds who successfully escaped the extermination of the European Jews took their cookbooks and tafelspitz with them.

Recipe for Tafelspitz, Vienna’s Imperial Poached Beef

12 servings (divide or multiply as needed)

6 1/2 pounds (3kg) boneless beef shoulder roast, chuck tenderloin, beef triangle or tri-tip
2 pounds (1kg) beef bones or oxtail (meaty if possible)
1/2 pound (250g) onions, unpeeled, halved horizontally
 6 quarts (5.5l) of water (or a little more to cover)
3 tablespoon kosher salt (or 1 1/2 tablespoons iodine free table salt)
18 black peppercorns
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
10 juniper berries
3 bay leaves
1 handful parsley stems tied together with kitchen string
1 big clove garlic gently crushed

1/4 pound (125g) garden carrots scrubbed and whole or peeled and thickly sliced
1/4 pound (125g) parsnip, parsley root and yellow turnip in equal amounts (or more carrots)
1/4 pound (125g) celery root, well-peeled and cut into chunks
1/4 pound (125g) leek
couple of lovage stems (or one celery stalk) tied together with kitchen string

1 cup freshly grated horseradish
1 grated apple or beet (cooked)
juice of 1 lemon
sugar
to taste

1 cup of finely chopped chives
coarse sea salt for serving

  1. Pre-salting the meat (optional): A couple of days ahead, wash and dry the meat. Do not trim any fat! Salt generously over and place on a rack uncovered in a refrigerator.
  2. Blanche the bones: Place a large 12-quart stock pot with the washed meaty beef bones (or oxtail) covered with cold water over a high flame. Bring to a rolling boil. Strain and rinse bones and wash the pot.
  3. Char onions lightly on the cut side with a blow torch, over an open flame or by placing cut-side down in a skillet over high heat (Some people prefer to place the onions on foil in order not to have to clean the skillet).
  4. Start broth: In the clean stockpot combine water, the blanched bones, charred onions and kosher salt. Into a tea strainer, cheesecloth or equivalent, add peppercorns, mustard seeds, juniper berries, bay leaves, parsley stems, and garlic clove and bring to a boil. Skim diligently.
  5. Poach the beef: Rinse the beef, add to the boiling pot and simmer on medium-low for 15 minutes, while regularly skimming off any impurities from the top of the surface. Reduce the heat to a barely visible roll. The meat should only poach, not boil, for at least 2 hours or until a roasting fork slips in and out easily! Take out the meat and wrap it tightly in foil. If preparing ahead, let it cool completely before placing it in the refrigerator. Cut finger thick slices across the grain and reheat with broth.
  6. Add root vegetables: In the broth, cook carrots, parsnips, parsley root, yellow turnips, celery root, leek, and lovage stems until just tender for approximately 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning. If necessary pass the broth through a very fine sift or preferably a cloth.
  7. Prepare horseradish sauce: Mix together the grated horseradish and apple or beet. Season with lemon juice and sugar to taste.

Serving

  • First serve the broth, with just a few vegetables. Top with chives!
  • Then serve 2 or 3 slices of beef moistened with up to a cup of broth per serving. The meat should not be submerged! Optionally add some of the root vegetables. Garnish with chive, and horseradish and sprinkle with sea salt. Pass with more horseradish. Serve with a crispy potato rösti/latke/kugel on the side. (See my recipe)

What to drink? Because of the horseradish, the wine should be a strong Grüner Veltliner, a ripe Riesling, a powerful Pinot blanc or a fruity Zierfandler. If you prefer red wine, maybe even a local one, try a Zweigelt or a Blaufränkischer.

Further Reading:

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Footnotes

  1.  Claus Peymann kauft sich eine Hose und
    geht mit mir essen.
     
    (Frankfort-on-Main: Suhrkamp, 1990).
  2. Cf. Kurt Gutenbrunner, The Chef (New York Times, Feb. 6, 2002)
  3. Freud bought the cookbook in the 1890’s, and the family used it until Anna Freud’s death in 1982: Deutsche Kochschule in Prag, Sammlung von erprobten Speisevorschriften, (1894, 7th ed. 1914).
  4. from the infinitive: sieden
  5. Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755-1826) was a French lawyer, politician, famous epicure and gastronome. In 1825 he published La Physiologie du Goût (The Physiology of Taste), where he made these remarks on boiled beef and soup. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Anthelme_Brillat-Savarin
  6. Franz Maier-Bruck, Das große Sacher Kochbuch (Vienna: Schuler, 1975), p.217.
  7. Anna Tobias publishes two recipes in her article, one of which is tafelspitz. The title of her article is a bit misleading, as it only mentions the boiled chicken: “Anna Tobias’s recipe for poached chicken, spring vegetables and aioli” (The Guardian, May 22, 2017).
  8. pièce de boeuf garnie meaning “a garnished prime cut of beef,” or Rindfleisch garniert in the local idiom. Cf Ingrid Haslinger Tafelspitz & Fledermaus. Die Wiener Rindfleischküche (Vienna: Mandelbaum, 2015) p.108
  9. Cf Ingrid Haslinger Tafelspitz & Fledermaus. Die Wiener Rindfleischküche (Vienna: Mandelbaum, 2015) p.15, S26
  10. Franz Maier-Bruck, Das große Sacher Kochbuch (Vienna: Schuler, 1975), p.209.
  11. Katja Behling-Fischer, Zu Tisch bei Sigmund Freud: Lebensweise, Gastlichkeit und Essgewohnheiten des Gründers der Psychoanalyse. Mit vielen Rezepten(Vienna: Brandstätter, 2000), pp. 61, 63 & 116.
  12. Guess why Sigmund Freud and Fin-de-Siècle Viennese ate that root vegetable and meat pot-au-feu "Tafelspitz" four times a week?

    Guess why Sigmund Freud and Fin-de-Siècle Viennese ate that root vegetable and meat pot-au-feu “Tafelspitz” four times a week?

  13. Raw horseradish is often used as the maror, the bitter herbs, one of the symbolic items eaten during the Passover Seder meal.
  14. chrain is a cold beet-horseradish sauce
  15. Similar to a potato latke or hash browns. See my recipe here.
  16. See as an example among many this War Haggadah (“Kriegs Haggadah”) printed for the Austrian Armed Forces in 1915 courtesy of Avi Paz, Israel
  17. Élisabeth Roudinesco, Freud: In His Time and Ours (Paris: Seuil, 2014 / Catherine Porter, Translator; Harvard University Press, 2016) p.423
  18. cf. Ingrid Haslinger Tafelspitz & Fledermaus. Die Wiener Rindfleischküche (Vienna: Mandelbaum, 2015)
  19. Kurt Gutenbrunner, Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna: Recipes from Cafe Sabarsky, Wallse, and Blaue Gans (New York: Rizzoli, 2011), p.138. An earlier version by chef Gutenbrunner, and a bit different approach was published on February 6, 2002 in the New York Times’ Dining section under the title “The Chef” (republished in the NYT’s new cooking website under the title “Tafelspitz (Austrian Boiled Beef) With Apple-Horseradish“.
  20. Thomas Bernhard said that Austrians are perfect actors, but, to me, once you take us out of this country the act falls apart, in as much as one recognizes a fellow Austrian immediately as nothing but an Austrian, or “l’autre-chien” as they say in France.
  21. Kurt Gutenbrunner, Neue Cuisine: The Elegant Tastes of Vienna: Recipes from Cafe Sabarsky, Wallse, and Blaue Gans (New York: Rizzoli, 2011), p.138
  22. For more on beef as the soul of Viennese cuisine, see Franz Maier-Bruck, Das große Sacher Kochbuch (Vienna: Schuler, 1975) pp.207-221, as well as historian Ingrid Haslinger in Tafelspitz & Fledermaus. Die Wiener Rindfleischküche (Vienna: Mandelbaum, 2015).
  23. This is very labor intensive, thus expensive. See the entry on beef in Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food (Hoboken: Wiley, 2010), pp.44-45.
  24. see their cookbook Plachutta: Viennese Cuisine (Vienna: Brandstätter, 2014), pp.144-147
  25. Cf. Ingrid Haslinger Tafelspitz & Fledermaus. Die Wiener Rindfleischküche (Vienna: Mandelbaum, 2015) pp.23-24, 122, 124.On Meissl & Schadn see also Franz Maier-Bruck Das große Sacher Kochbuch (Vienna: Schuler, 1975) p. 208)
  26. as explained in detail in Gerd Wolfgang Siever’s Wiener Beisel Kochbuch (Vienna: Metroverlag, 2012), p.102
  27. Ingrid Haslinger Tafelspitz & Fledermaus. Die Wiener Rindfleischküche (Vienna: Mandelbaum, 2015) pp.30, 38-65
  28. Katja Behling-Fischer, Zu Tisch bei Sigmund Freud: Lebensweise, Gastlichkeit und Essgewohnheiten des Gründers der Psychoanalyse. Mit vielen Rezepten(Vienna: Brandstätter, 2000)
  29. The blog’s author being Edie Jarolim a relative of the Siegmund Kornmehl, the butcher that has his shop directly in Freud’s house at Berggasse 19.
  30. Katja Behling-Fischer, Zu Tisch bei Sigmund Freud: Lebensweise, Gastlichkeit und Essgewohnheiten des Gründers der Psychoanalyse. Mit vielen Rezepten(Vienna: Brandstätter, 2000), p.15
  31. Katja Behling-Fischer, Zu Tisch bei Sigmund Freud: Lebensweise, Gastlichkeit und Essgewohnheiten des Gründers der Psychoanalyse. Mit vielen Rezepten(Vienna: Brandstätter, 2000), p. 57
  32. Katja Behling-Fischer, Zu Tisch bei Sigmund Freud: Lebensweise, Gastlichkeit und Essgewohnheiten des Gründers der Psychoanalyse. Mit vielen Rezepten(Vienna: Brandstätter, 2000), p.17
  33. The museum, including the former butcher shop of the Kornmehls, will be renovated and expanded until 2020: Sigmund Freud Museum 2020 
  34. For instance, the United States Forces sent this radiogram to Austria Legal Division (US Sector) on February 28, 1947:

    AUB22/QRC356/SJ NEWYORK 46 FEB28 1247P
    NLT HEADQUARTERS UNITED STATES FORCES
    AUSTRIA LEGAL DIVISION APO 777 VIENNA =
    REFERRING OUR OPINION JANUARY 4 WE JOIN PROTEST AMERICAN JEWISH CONFERENCE AGAINST THIRD AUSTRIAN RESTITUTION LAW AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND VIOLATING LONDON DECLERATION PARTICULARLY IN SECTIONS FOUR AND SIX AMERICAN STUDY COMMITEE ON EUROPEAN LEGAL PROBLEMS.

    Archives of the Austrian Society for Contemporary History (Österreichische Gesellschaft für Zeitgeschichte) quoted in Freuds verschwundene Nachbarn (“Freud’s disappeared neighbors”; Lydia Marinelli (Editor); Vienna: Turia+Kant, 2003; p. 22).

  35. Cf. Freuds verschwundene Nachbarn (“Freud’s disappeared, neighbors”; Lydia Marinelli, Editor; Vienna: Turia+Kant, 2003; p. 22-25)
  36. I refer to the title of the important book by Peter Gay, A Godless Jew: Freud, Atheism, and the Making of Psychoanalysis, (1987)
  37. Siegmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, Standard Edition 23:55 cited in Élisabeth Roudinesco, Freud: In His Time and Ours (Paris: Seuil, 2014 / Catherine Porter, Translator; Harvard University Press, 2016) p.390
  38. Siegmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism, Standard Edition 23:55 cited in Élisabeth Roudinesco, Freud: In His Time and Ours (Paris: Seuil, 2014 / Catherine Porter, Translator; Harvard University Press, 2016) p.392
Nino Shaya Loss-Weiss
Hi, I'm Nino, an unbridled foodnik blogging from Vienna, the city of dreams and Sigmund Freud. I'm cooking up a therapy with recipes and stories from Viennese cuisine and its eclectic influences – Jewish, Italian, Hungarian, Bohemian... – with an armchair psychoanalytical twist.

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