Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
The exact origin of egg cream, a classic New York City drink, is probably going to be clouded in mystery forever. But the lore around the carbonated chocolate milk is rich, and the short film Egg Cream is a lovely heritage postcard. According to food historian Andrew Coe, egg creams emerged from a desire to conjure a rich Uptown concoction with a Downtown price for locals on the poor Lower East Side. Today the drink (which perplexingly contains neither egg nor cream) can still be found at old-school New York delis and restaurants, but it’s increasingly common to find New Yorkers who have heard of it but never partaken.
The film’s style is clear and affable, and it ends on the funny note when most of the people it features, including those who know the most about egg cream, don’t seem to love the drink (which might explain why it never achieved the status of other New York Jewish staples like bagels or lox). At one point, director Nora Claire Miller’s Hebrew school teacher, Jerry, connects the drink to the Torah (written in “black fire on white fire”) — specifically the story of a warrior woman named Malka, who poured a little milk into her helmet, mixed in water from a bubbling brook, then added some dark beans to create the first egg cream. Yeah, sure. Let’s hope these filmmakers take on other popular New York foods, like bialys or Entenmann’s donuts. These are the stories that nourish our souls.