Brooklyn Chocolate Egg Creams
I cannot think about chocolate egg creams without recalling the assassination of President Kennedy. The two are inextricably linked together in my memory.
As a young child in Brooklyn part of my regular routine was an afternoon stop at a local luncheonette for a chocolate egg cream, my favorite drink at the time. Containing neither eggs nor cream, a chocolate egg cream is a freshly made chocolate soda invented in Brooklyn around the 1920’s.
Watching the soda jerk make the egg cream was almost as enjoyable as drinking it, and a major part of the experience. He would pour a splash of cold milk into a tall soda fountain glass and add a few squirts of Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup without stirring it in. Then he filled the glass quickly with fresh seltzer water from the fountain while using a long spoon and a unique wrist action to stir just the bottom of the glass. The crown of the glass developed a huge head of pure white foam beneath which lay the brown chocolate soda. Although served with a straw, I liked to try to drink the fluffy head from the top of the glass before all the bubbles dissipated. Then I’d suck up the delicious chocolate soda through the straw, with appropriate slurping noises, to get every last drop. There is nothing else quite like a chocolate egg cream.
A true chocolate egg cream must be made fresh and cannot be bottled and distributed like other sodas because its key ingredient is fresh seltzer. Fresh seltzer was so popular back then that my grandfather would get weekly home deliveries. A truck would bring the heavy glass bottles that were topped with a shiny chrome siphon. Pressing the lever of the siphon would force a hard jet of the bubbly water to squirt out. These were great for water fights, but I wasn’t allowed to touch them without supervision. Each week the empty bottles would be returned to the truck in exchange for new full ones.
The bubbles in the fresh seltzer water seemed much larger than what today’s bottled club soda contain, and they also dissipated more quickly. I believe those are important properties for a true classic chocolate egg cream. I’ve tried making chocolate egg creams at home with bottled seltzer and the results, although good, are a pale shadow of the real chocolate egg creams I enjoyed as a child.
One November my family was preparing to move from Brooklyn to Long Island. At that young age I didn’t realize that suburbia contained no luncheonettes and that you needed a car to go to any store. So little did I know that week that I was enjoying what were to be my last real chocolate egg creams. One particular day my aunt, who was only 16, accompanied me to the luncheonette. Like all teenagers, back then and today, she didn’t go anywhere without her music, a scratchy portable transistor radio. As we were walking back home the music was interrupted by a news flash. President Kennedy had been shot! By the time we got home all the neighbors were outside talking, hugging, and crying. The President was dead.
They say that everyone remembers what they were doing when Kennedy was shot. That must be true because I cannot think about the assassination of Kennedy without remembering chocolate egg creams and I cannot think about chocolate egg creams without recalling the assassination of Kennedy.Tags: chocolate egg cream
, Kennedy assassination
Labels: egg cream, New York