This ubiquitous snack contains neither liver (Leber) nor cheese (Käse). So why the name? Linguists posit that leberkäse is from the Middle High German* word lab or laib (clotted or loaf) and the Slavic root word quas (feast). Whatever its etymology, this “clotted feast” or “loaf feast” is everywhere in Vienna, and throughout most of Austria and Bavaria as well. Street vendors and grocery stores sell leberkäse on semmel rolls for the quick snacker or harried commuter; and I spy the thick slices and fine-sliced wurst in the grocery trolleys of moms with children, single persons, and pretty much everyone in between, including my trolley.
And for good reason. Leberkäse is a finely ground mix of pork, corned beef, bacon and onions that is baked in a loaf pan until it obtains a brown, baked crust; and is delicious. Its origins are controversial (it is believed to have been created by the chef for a Bavarian Duke. Or not.) and like most European foods, it has regional character. True Bavarian Leberkäse must contain 5% liver, which would render it un-delicious to me.
We like thick slices, hot or cold, sandwiched in a Semmel roll. We like thin slices straight off the butcher’s paper, too. With or without mustard, and with or without pickles. I do believe that Tony has even fried slices of it with potatoes, too. For breakfast, lunch, or after-school snack, this treat is almost always in the refrigerator. Just don’t call it SPAM.
*About the German language. There are 35 dialects in Germany alone, and enough regional Austrian German dialects to confuse matters even more. In Germany I would ask for my Leberkäse mit Brotchen (Leberkäse with Roll) and perhaps a side of Kartoffelsalat (potato salad); here in Austria, it’s LeberkäseSemmel (Leberkäse with Roll) and a side of Erdapfelsalat (earth apple salad, or, potato salad). Confused yet?