EGG CREAMS--THEY'RE 'BATAMT'*
"batamt" is the Yiddish word for "delicious"
Mel Brooks said, "The egg cream is psychologically the opposite of circumcision. It pleasurably reaffirms your Jewishness."
While growing up in Rockaway Beach (Arverne), New York, my mother and father used to take me out for an egg cream at Mary's Luncheonette. The store was located across the street from P. S. 42. As we sipped the drink, we were convinced that out-of- towners actually believed that the drink contained eggs and cream! We knew that a "genuine" egg cream begins with Fox's U- Bet chocolate flavored syrup; Bosco won't do! And we instinctively knew that the egg cream would lose its head and turn flat if not drunk immediately or within three minutes.
Jillian Gould asks, "How is it that certain foods disappear and where do they go? ...Why is the egg cream a drink that is closely associated with nostalgia, while other drinks from the soda fountain days, such as malted milkshakes, or even flavored soda have become a part of the present?"
Willy Goldstein, a Brooklynite, muses on the staying power of the egg cream. "It contains all the basic elements of life," he says, "Milk, chocolate and seltzer--what else is there?"
I can just imagine Jackie Mason's next"oral essay" on Broadway. He says to the audience, "Boy, look at this egg cream! My God! It looks geshmak! $3.00! 'Meshuga!' Well, look what Starbucks charges for an iced-decaf-sugarfree-Vanilla-soy latte! I'm gonna tell you the secret to making good egg creams. Hold the seltzer bottle six inches away from "di gloz" (the glass) or a Mason jar. The distance is important because it allows the seltzer spray to exert the right amount of pressure needed for just the right foamy topping.
Did you hear the rumor that our president, Mr. Bush, tried to compare an egg cream with Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Tonic. 'Ummiglekh' (impossible). He was sitting in Sammy's Roumanian and told a security guard, "It's like a pay-as-you-go Bar Mitzvah party' here." (Think "Keeping Up with the Steins.") He ordered an extra lg. plate of chopped liver, potato pancakes, garlic pickles, Alka-Seltzer...and Cel-Ray.
And Avery Corman, a self-appointed maven, said, "There's a right way to make an egg cream. You should put milk in first, whole milk, you can't make it with skim milk ("opgeshepte milkh"), then the cold seltzer, then the chocolate syrup. Then you mix it.. .The foam on top will be white and the drink below will be chocolaty brown."
Elliot Willensky ("When Brooklyn was the World: 1920 - 1957"), wrote, "A candy store minus an egg cream, in Brooklyn at least, was as difficult to conceive of as the earth without gravity."
The New York Times (4/15/02) had an article about the "New Old World of the Lower East Side." Included in their sampling of restaurants was Sammy's Roumanian Steak House." "For a taste of the old Jewish East Side, try this jammed favorite. Live entertainment and shtick are as schmaltzy as the chopped liver, with indulgences of delicious grilled steaks, veal chops, flanken, potato latkes an kishka--topped off, God willing, with an egg cream."
According to Louis Auster, it is possible that Egg Cream is actually a Yiddish name or phrase that has been Americanized. The Yiddish word for "Pure" is "Ekt"(I hope I got the spelling right). I have no idea what Yiddish word sounds close to cream, but for arguments sake let's say "Keem" is Yiddish for "Sweetness." This would have made "Ekt Keem" or "Pure Sweetness" the original name, and it simply became corrupted into Egg Cream.