Over the course of several centuries, many European countries have developed strikingly different approaches to carving up animals. It’s not simply that the words for the various cuts of meat differ between English, French and German, but the cuts themselves are the result of different methodologies.
Even within Germany itself, the precise approach differs subtly from region to region. Most modern butcher shops will have roughly the same items on offer, but the presence of those diverse traditions live on in the name above the shop: in the south and west, Metzger is the most common term, while Schlachter is used in the coastal plains of the North, and in Austria it is not uncommon to find Fleischhacker.
Berlin, however, is a city of Fleischer, whose wares are sold beneath the familiar red sign of the Fleischerei. Unlike the flourishing bakeries in the first part of this blog post, the number of Fleischereien in Berlin appears to be on the decline, marginalised on the one side by the meat counters present in most larger supermarkets and, on the other, by the baffling popularity of the high-priced meat trucks that roll from Wochenmarkt to Wochenmarkt. Many of the surviving Fleischereien also double as an Imbiss; some have expanded into the world of cured meats, which was once a distinct profession unto itself (the Wurster, obviously).
While the number of traditional Fleischereien in Berlin may have diminished, several of their signs have been deemed too glorious to be removed. And rightly so: in the city’s finest Fleischerei signs we find cursive neon taken to a height of perfection. And just as bakery neon gravitated toward yellow, and signs of flower shops will often be green, the standard Fleischerei colour is, for obvious reasons, red.
On many newer signs one can spot the stylised F-logo of the Deutscher Flesicher-Verband, the regulatory body for butchers.
Although the classic red neon signs have been disappearing over the past decade, the idea of ‘red’ and ‘cursive’ continues to dominate the identity of Berlin’s Fleischereien in various forms, some elegant, some less so.
There is certainly nothing wrong with buying meat from the meat counter at your local Rewe or Edeka: the selection is often fine, at least for standard cuts, the quality (thanks to EU regulations) is usually quite good, and it is certainly convenient. But any devoted cook knows the value of a great butcher when it comes to tracking down stock bones, caul fat or specialist cuts; and if, by supporting your local Fleischerei you are also helping to keep the electricity flowing through a great neon sign, so much the better.
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