A documentary film by Suzanne Wasserman
Meat Hooked! is a documentary about meat and the rise and fall and rise again of butchers and butchering. The film goes back in time to the early 19th century and moves forward quickly to the present. It follows several butchers, 3 of whom are Jewish but not kosher butchers. Why butchers? As cities have become more and more alike, there is a yearning to go back to a seemingly more authentic time and place, to a time when a sense of place was concrete, not virtual. Butchers, butcher shops and butchering fit into that acute yearning. It allows the consumer to have more of a sense of control over what we eat and a face to face experience with the butcher.
My film examines 200 years of butchers. The film features three current butchers in the New York area. Jeffrey Ruhalter is a fifth generation master butcher in the Essex Street Market. His butcher shop is the only original tenant of the market which opened in 1940. Not only does Jeffrey sell meat to a new population of young and affluent Lower East Siders, but he has also been the butcher for a working-class, Spanish-speaking population over the past 40 years. Jacob Dickson operates the brand new Dickson’s Farmstand Meats at Chelsea Market across town while Joshua and Jessica Applestone own Fleisher’s Organic and Grass-Fed Meat Market in upstate in Kingston New York. Jake and Josh represent a younger, new generation of butchers who are interested in sustainability, affordable organic and grass-fed meat as well as humane slaughtering practices and a nose to tail philosophy of using the entire animal. The film shows time spent at all three butcher shops, at an organic farm, a pig slaughter, at a small family – owned slaughter house and finally ends at dinner – from farm to table. The film includes interviews with Julie Powell, author of Julie and Julia and Cleaving about her experiences as an apprentice butcher, John Sayles who worked in a meat packing plant in Boston in the early 1970s, Moe Albanese, an old-time Italian American butcher as well as the current meat packer, John Jobaggy in the now trendy meatpacking district of Manhattan.