The German Cold Cut Expedition- Fred Reich and Hickory Sweet
When I was young (ok, and now) German Cold Cuts (Aufschnitt) like Schinken, Cervelat, Fleishwurst, and Leberwurst HAD to be on the table.
Not Roast Turkey or Roast Beef
My family ate Zungenwurst, Blutwurst, and Mettwurst and Gelbwurst.
Sadly, the deli department of our local grocery store didn’t carry anything like that. So mom had to go further out to find the foods she loved (and recognized). A few times a year we would take an expedition to see Fred Reich, of Hickory Sweet Meats, a South Central Los Angeles institution.
Fred Reich and Hickory Sweet Meats
My memories of Hickory Sweet meats begin in the early 1970’s. Mom would let friends know that she was headed out to get Aufschnitt, and they would give her a list of what they wanted. Then she put a cooler in the back of our Monte Carlo, and load us up, and off we’d go.
I remember being overwhelmed by the size of the Hickory Sweet. This was no small operation. Huge! With long display counters loaded with meats and cold cuts that you couldn’t get anywhere else. You had to pull a number, and often we had to wait a while because of the crowds. It was never boring, Butchers in white coats hustled to fill orders and give samples. Everything was clean. There was that spicy, salty smell that I love.
Then it was our turn.
The men behind the counter always spoke German with my mom. And they always handed me a fresh Knackwurst to munch while filling the order. Sometimes, Fred Reich himself would be there, alongside his people, talking and making sure that everything was running according to German plan. (I always remember thinking he must be famous…. not only did he have a shop, he had a German radio program that ran every Sunday Morning. )
All of the Aufschnitt would be wrapped in crisp white butcher paper, and a note about the contents and price were scribbled in grease pencil on the outside, so you knew what it was when you got home. Westphalian Schinken, Leberwurst, and thick slices of LeberKase (our favorite) for frying. Wiener, Bratwurst of all kinds, Suppenwurst and Weiss Wurst.
Finally we were done… our cooler neatly packed with delicious Aufschnitt for lunches. That night we would often have fresh Wurstchen for dinner…. YUM
Fred Reich passed away years ago, and his Hickory Sweet store closed. The neighborhood continued to change, and the world got smaller. German foods were available in more locations. In fact, today, my local grocery store sells many of my favorites like Wurstchen and Bratwurst. But, like my mother, I still occasionally load up my car with a cooler for an Aufschnitt expedition, because my kids like Leberkase too.
How did a German Butcher end up In South Central Los Angeles?
A short aside…..For those of you familiar with South Central Los Angeles, I’m sure you are wondering how a German Butcher shop landed in this neighborhood. Remember, Los Angeles before the 1950’s and 1960’s had a different demographic. Fred built his shop when the area was a quiet middle class part of LA. As the world around him changed, he never did. His meats were always fresh, and delicious, and he cared about the neighborhood. Smoked meats, sausages and his cold cuts were popular with his new African American neighbors. There are many rumors about his generosity, and free hand outs to the less fortunate locals. During the Watts Riots, the neighborhood repaid him by protecting his business from fire and looting.
Time continued to pass, and the world continued to change. The neighborhood became more Hispanic, and with that came a change in tastes. Finally, Hickory Sweet closed its doors for the last time.
Gone, but not forgotten. I have searched for hours for photos of Fred Reich and the Hickory Sweet store…. but I can’t find anything. Does anyone out there have a photo they could share? Or a memory?
Take the time to read the Comments Below!
Some people who knew the shop, and even some who knew Fred Reich personally, have shared information. And some are looking for other people who may have been involved in the store.
I found out where one of Fred Reich’s Apprentices ended up !
Alex Lagger- http://www.latimes.com/food/la-fo-5-questions-alex-lagger-20150919-story.html
Time for another ROAD TRIP
Hickory Sweet Is Gone, But You Can Still Order German Sausage
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