Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rebecca's Egg Creams

A New York classic loved by Rebecca!

It bums me out that American Girl has never released cookbooks for most of their newer characters. Although it's true we've seen some duds or not entirely historically accurate recipes in the official character cookbooks and cooking studios released by Pleasant Company and Mattel, for the most part, I really love the books. They add a special dimension of being able to experience the world through your favorite Historical/BeForever character's eyes, and open you up to trying new things that might not be part of your family's typical food routine.

That being said, the main book series, mysteries and short stories can still point you in fun directions when it comes to getting a taste of history. One treat that caught my eye the very first time I read Rebecca's books was an Egg Cream, an old fashioned treat that she looks forward to getting every so often at a soda shop. I'd never heard of egg creams before, and therefore I'd obviously never had one, so I've always had this earmarked as something I really wanted to explore on the blog.

Other stuff has evidently caught my attention a tiny bit more, because we're almost three years into running this blog, but hey. Better late than never, right?


Last time, we talked about how Addy's Cook Book features a potato salad recipe that's way more 1940's than 1860's. Every once and a while, I do question some of the stuff in the AG books, (blog devotees might remember me saying I had a hard time proving that a burnt sugar cake was something Caroline would have really been given for her birthday) but in this case, they really got it right!

Like most foods, there's some debate about who originally created Egg Creams, but there's been a consensus reached by most people that I can definitely get behind. Apparently the first Egg Creams were produced in a candy shop in Brooklyn, New York in the early 1900's by a Jewish immigrant by the name of Loius Auster. Although the drink eventually became popular outside of the city, it has remained something that's very much iconically New York, and it's absolutely something Rebecca would have been able to order and enjoy in 1914. The drink was so popular, Auster's store apparently sold 3,000 every day until the shop closed in the 50's! That could be an exaggeration, but if true, that's pretty impressive!

Egg Creams traditionally contain neither egg nor cream, although I did find a couple modern recipes that try to sneak one or the other in. Not sure why in the case of the egg, especially considering modern Americans tend to be more suspicious of consuming them raw, and a cooked egg has no business in this drink. Unfortunately, no one knows Auster's original recipe for the egg cream, or if they do, they're not talking. Apparently (or according to legend, anyway), Mr. Auster was approached by a large ice cream corporation and offered a small sum for the original recipe. When he turned them down, they called him a racial slur, and he then decided he was taking his recipe to his grave. If he ever shared it with anyone else, they evidently are keeping quiet out of respect for him. No one really knows where the name came from either, although some have suggested it might be an Americanization of the drink's Yiddish name.

The drink is still popular today, and there are other recipes for it you can make at home. It might not exactly match what Rebecca and Ana would have grown up drinking, but I was reassured that it was close enough and pretty tasty.

Before we get into how to make one, I want to make one thing really clear: this is a drink that needs to be made and drunk immediately. As soon as it's done being mixed together, it starts to go flat, and I actually had to make three of them to get the pictures for this post right. This difficulty has actually helped the drink remain a regional favorite because it's almost impossible to bottle and adding preservatives makes it taste terrible. Some companies are trying to sell it bottled, but considering how simple it is to make one yourself, you'd probably be best off just doing it that way.

To begin, you need a tall soda glass. You pour about a half inch of cold whole milk into the glass...


Add enough seltzer to the glass to within an inch of the top and stir it with a long spoon to get it to foam up...


And finally, very gently pour in two tablespoons of chocolate syrup down the side of the glass and stir only at the very bottom to get the chocolate mix in. Drink immediately!


I'm going to be honest: I really didn't like this. It's pretty unusual that this happens, both because obviously I can control what does and doesn't show up on the blog, so I don't have to make anything I know I won't enjoy eating, but I like to think I'm willing to go out on a limb and try something really new and different. Most of the unusual or really new to me recipes I've done for the blog have been gambles that paid off, and this one just... wasn't.

Which is fine! I'm still glad I gave it a shot, and it was fun to find out the history of one of Rebecca's favorite treats. I think it's really fun that it's another way the author wove Jewish culture into Rebecca's central series, which makes sense when you consider that she's outright said Rebecca's books were directly inspired by her grandmother's early childhood. The book doesn't explicitly say Egg Creams are a Jewish invention or native to New York City, but this still feels like a more obvious, intentional choice on the part of the author than some of the other dishes that get mentioned in AG books.

Why didn't I like it? Honestly, it just tasted like very watery, fizzy milk with a tiny bit of chocolate. I was expecting it to be sweeter, and generally am extremely fussy about drinking milk. Sometimes I love it, and sometimes I feel like I'm going to gag if I take another swallow. One of the things that tends to trigger the less pleasant sensation is if the milk tastes watery, and so this just really didn't work for me. Of course, it's possible I'd love it if I got a more authentic, professionally made Egg Cream in Brooklyn! But for the time being, I'm saying this is probably one of my least favorite things I've ever eaten for the sake of the blog, even if it was a fun peek into the past!

Oh well. More for Rebecca and Ana to share, I guess!

12 comments:

  1. I think the recipe my grandmother had for it required heavy cream. She gave us something like this for stomach aches: Milk and ginger ale. Weird, but it works!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny you should say that, I actually can't stomach ginger ale except when I feel sick because that's the only time I ever have it! Not sure how I feel about adding milk to it, but I guess I'll be keeping that in mind next time I feel gross, haha.

      Delete
    2. I think it works. I've even given it to my daughter when she's been sick as a last resort. It works, if you can get over the taste. Love your blog, btw. I found out about it through AGC.

      Delete
    3. Very cool! Can't believe I've never heard of this before. Glad you're enjoying the blog! :D

      Delete
  2. I'm with you, I probably would have gagged this down. There is nothing worse than watered down milk. Except for maybe flat root beer. Interesting post though!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nothing worse indeed! Glad I'm not the only one who thinks so.

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. Let me know what you think if you do! I'm very curious if this is a it's not you, it's me thing, haha.

      Delete
  4. Awesome recipe!! I will have to make it one day! :P

    ReplyDelete
  5. I would get one of these whenever I dined at Lender's. I loved them! Perhaps it's an acquired tasted, but I think they are tasty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you say so! Maybe I just need to get one done by a professional. ;)

      Delete