Norman Rockwell said that he painted life as he'd "like it to be," and I like that sentiment. His illustrations mostly "[exclude] the sordid and ugly" and show the "ideal aspects" of an "ideal world."* The world he paints is one mostly of honest and upstanding citizens and innocent kids enjoying ball games and soda fountains. I'm old enough that I remember seeing soda counters (although I don't know if they actually mixed "sodas" anymore at that time) and they seem like a relic of a simpler age. There was one in the old Earl's Pharmacy where we used to buy candy and comic books. There was another at the old Snelgrove Ice Cream parlor on South Temple in downtown Salt Lake, although I only ever ordered ice cream. I think both places are gone now, and the world seems a little poorer for it.
So maybe it was with that nostalgia in mind that I got The Soda Fountain: Floats, Sundaes, Egg Creams & More--Stories and Flavors of an American Original
by Gia Giasullo and Peter Freeman of the Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain (I received a free copy from Blogging for Books for review purposes). Interestingly enough, it starts out with about 50 pages of history on soda fountains, which enjoyed a heyday during Prohibition (so much for the Norman Rockwell image). They explain the origins of the term "soda jerk" (the guy behind the counter mixing your soda), give a few historical accounts of the dangers of working with carbonated water, and even offer a little history on the Brooklyn Farmacy itself. (This is my second cookbook from an establishment in New York, so maybe publishing your recipes is the new thing for trendy eateries?) The recipes start out with the syrups, and some (like the cola syrup) are complex and involved. Several of them call for such exotic ingredients as "orange flower water" and "dried hibiscus flowers," but those are almost always listed as "optional." I went for the simpler recipes, and several are actually very easy - and tasty! - and finding plain carbonated water at the grocery store turned out to be much easier than I thought it might be.
Although you can mix a simple soda with the syrup, subsequent sections use them in floats and egg creams (something I'd never heard of). And the book is extremely well organized, with each recipe giving the page numbers for the syrup and the syrup recipe references where else it's used. (There are also a number of options for mixing the syrups for someone who's "not in a temperance mood.") They explain the proper techniques for making egg cremes and advocate artfully hanging the ice cream on the edge of the "float glass" for your floats. Several of the syrups also produce a "compote" which can be used as toppings for ice cream and other treats. In fact, the book seems to have recipes for everything you can order at the Brooklyn Farmacy, even the ice cream sundaes and splits plus the toppings to go with them, as well as the milkshakes, cookies, and other baked goodies that look delicious (maybe sometime I'll get a chance to visit and find out).
And while I find the recipes very good and a lot of fun to make, the real popularity of the book in my house hit me when the kids were having a bunch of friends over and Jamie went ahead and bought everything and asked me to make raspberry sodas for them. She didn't realize that it took almost an hour to make plus time to cool, so only the kids who stayed late got some, but that only meant I was mixing raspberry sodas for her for several days afterwards! I think I'd better plan ahead for when she wants a pineapple soda - that one takes 24 hours to make - and I'm looking forward to it already!
*The full Norman Rockwell quotes are: "The view of life I communicate in my pictures excludes the sordid and ugly. I paint life as I would like it to be", and "I unconsciously decided that, even if it wasn't an ideal world, it should be and so painted only the ideal aspects of it - pictures in which there are no drunken slatterns or self-centered mothers... only foxy grandpas who played baseball with the kids and boys who fished from logs and got up circuses in the backyard."