Through the portraits, we share the rich and diverse personal stories of women, shedding light on their journeys and accomplishments. Using their contribution to the food industry as an entry point, we touch on their journeys, philosophies, and accomplishments—creating conversations with staying power.
Liv Fleischhacker is a food and drink writer who expresses herself in a myriad of ways that all revolve around connecting and communicating through food and drink. Her activities in Berlin range from producing Natty, a roving popup featuring natural wines and a themed menu, to giving food tours to writing Masel Tov, a cookbook showcasing food from the Jewish diaspora. Through her various mediums and output, Liv touches on personal stories, her own and others.
Born a year before the wall fell in what was then East Berlin, Liv spent three years in Los Angeles as a very young child but has lived in Berlin for most of her life. Thus, she’s witnessed the city’s food and drink landscape change firsthand while participating in and transmitting the changes. “I do food tours for Berlin Food Stories and the fact that people come to Berlin and go on a food tour wouldn’t have happened five years ago. That is a really big sign to me that people see Berlin as a gastronomic city. If it deserves the title of capital, that remains to be seen.” Spoken like a true Berliner, with a healthy dose of skepticism and tough love.
Liv studied publishing in London, and first worked in the arts. She always knew that she enjoyed writing. “The first step toward making a living out of writing was a copywriting gig, which wasn’t very personal. It was a nice first step to venture out and say I’m a writer, but I’m a copywriter. It was a gradual process to get here.” Liv took an organic route to become a freelance writer and still, it’s not a fixed aspect of her identity. “I have freelanced for five years but also how much do I need to identify with my identity as a freelancer?”
She doesn’t like to be pigeonholed. “I sometimes have a hard time saying I’m German because I don’t feel super German. I say I’m German raised under an American umbrella and there’s some Jewish influence in there. Very much I think I’m a Berliner. That’s my biggest identity if I had to pick anything because this is where I’ve spent most of my life and it is also where all of these influences come together. Even the American influences came in through the American sector in Berlin.”
The nuances of modern identity are apparent in her approach to work. “I’m not branding myself as a Jewish writer or a Jewish food writer, it just happens to be a part of my identity so I can tell a story that’s personal.” For Masel Tov, a book about global modern Jewish cooking, she was commissioned to interview 20 people about their life story. “We asked them for family recipes and new recipes and tried to showcase as much of the diaspora as we could because especially in Germany, there’s not a lot of awareness about what Jewish food is.”
Liv’s paternal side of the family is Jewish, and her grandfather was saved through the Kindertransport (children’s transport) from Germany to the UK. “My grandfather spoke about history at schools, being the living embodiment of history. In a very tiny fractional sense, I can continue doing that work. In that way [Masel Tov] is incredibly personal, in other ways, not so much.” Touching on the personal is essential to her process and is linked to purpose and meaning. In everything she does, she chooses to craft something with “substance, so people can take something away from it.”
In her self-initiated projects, Liv fosters the relationships she values while informing her palate and feeding her creativity. She started the popup Natty two years ago with two friends who work in gastronomy, Maddy McLean and Anna Küfner. “It’s always a ton of work but it’s some of the best work. You forge so many relationships with importers, distributors, and wine makers and building those relationships is so much fun. The wines taste better if you have a connection to it. It’s opened up our palate so much, it’s incredible how much it has informed us and our cooking.”
With Natty, she finds herself bumping up against the particularities of the city. “We stress about pricing because we’re trying to make money. I’m usually the one who says, ‘We need to do it for less because it’s Berlin.’ Sometimes factors make a plate cost more than ten euros, which seems excessive for Berlin. It’s something you have to consider here, as frustrating as it is. It’s a very specific whirlpool of cultures and navigating it is a bit tricky.”
She attributes this in part to the city’s history. “It’s a mixture of history and West Berlin being an island in East Germany: it was difficult to get things in and out. Proper relationships were not established with the local farmer or butcher and people began to rely on cheap mass-produced food. Then there was the post-war mentality that still prevails: If I can get a Döner (Kebab) for four euros, why should I pay seven euros for a better Döner? If I can be full, then I can be full—I’m not thinking beyond that.” As she sees it, “Berlin could have been shitty and cheap forever, sure, but it was never going to be cool and cheap forever.” While this is frustrating for someone who grew up in the city, she acknowledges that she also benefits from it: “I could not be drinking all the natural wine I want to be drinking if Berlin wasn’t what it is.”
She believes Berlin is headed in the direction of Copenhagen. As it is “the mecca of food and is so close, it makes sense to look there. I think Germans are looking at Denmark and understanding that they can [also] make something out of the Landschaft, terroir, or land that they have.” This could inadvertently lead to a homogenization of the local food scene, and brings us back to the question: can Berlin continue to develop in these ways without losing its scrappy charm and special character? “I do not have an answer to this [other than] to keep Berlin’s unique food identity. But also I love a bit of trash; I love my Bugles with natural wine or whatever. That’s what makes Berlin fun and that’s really not Copenhagen. You want a bit of life in it, you want some spillage and dirt—otherwise it’s not fun. It’s something we can work on: keeping an attitude that is positive and fun but allows for experimentation, while also not being afraid to show that we’re trying.”
Liv puts this into practice herself. Currently, she is working on a larger creative writing project, and spent six weeks in Italy to work on it, this past fall. “It is my first creative writing project, which is exciting but also nerve-racking. But I’m just putting it out into the world. I’m also working on doing more with Natty. I’m trying to breathe more life into the old wine situation and have more fun with it—and drink more wine.”