"The most valuable skill I learned at the candy store was how to mix the perfect egg cream. It was kind of like drawing a perfect pint of Guinness: You had to use just the right amounts of chocolate syrup and milk, and you had to squirt the seltzer against the side of the glass at just the right angle and with just the right force, so the head was neither too foamy nor not foamy enough. (A master egg-cream maker, like my father, could divert the seltzer with a spoon into a second and third glass and still achieve a perfect head.)" —from Bobby in Naziland
The egg cream is a subject that comes up time and again in Bobby in Naziland. It was one of the most popular items my father sold in his Brooklyn candy store, and the above excerpt, in part, explains why.
So I was surprised when a critic complained that I didn't explain where the name "egg cream" comes from, as the drink contains neither egg nor cream. He also suggested that perhaps I should have included a bit of the iconic beverage's history.
I didn't include this information because, in my approximately six years (ages 7–12) of making egg creams professionally, nobody ever asked me about such things. A customer would come into the store, order an egg cream, lay a dime on the counter, and drink it. If he or she said anything, it was usually something along the lines of "Delicious!"
That was it, and this was the experience I described in the book: the making, serving, and imbibing of the glorious egg cream.
I was even more surprised to receive an email from a reader expressing outrage that my father didn't use Fox's U-Bet to make his egg creams. Rather, he used chocolate syrup that came in unlabeled gallon jugs (or maybe it was five-gallon jugs).
I didn't realize that there are egg-cream aficionados out there who have an almost religious devotion to Fox's U-Bet. And I didn't expect to find myself defending my father, 54 years after he sold the candy store, for not using Fox's.
I bring this up now because, for those of you who need to know the complete history of the egg cream (it's biblical!) or can handle the truth about Fox's U-Bet (it's Mafia!), there's a 15-minute film, Egg Cream, by Nora Claire Miller, Peter Miller, and Amy Linton, that will tell you everything, including things you might have been afraid to ask.
You can rent Egg Cream here for $1.99, which is a penny less than the price of an authentic New York City egg cream, which I'd urge you to try if you've never had one. It pairs well with the movie.