The Soda Fountain Tells the Long History of the Ice Cream Counter, With Recipes

The Soda Fountain: Floats, Sundaes, Egg Creams and More, by siblings Gia Giasullo and Peter Freeman, co-owners of Brooklyn Farmacy, celebrates the history of the thoroughly American tradition of the pharmacy-based treats counter. Released May 6 by Ten Speed Press, this book defies immediate categorization. Recipes, anecdotes, ephemera and fact all find their way into The Soda Fountain.

As Giasullo and Freeman tell it, “A century ago, soda fountains on almost every Main Street in America served as the heart of the community, where folks shared sundaes, sodas, ice cream floats, and the news of the day.” Doesn’t that sound tremendous?

With an eye toward taking back some of that lost tradition, the brother and sister opened Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain in 2010. “We didn’t invent the soda fountain; we just welcomed it into the twenty-fist century with love and reverence.”

Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda opened in a space that had been a neighborhood pharmacy for over fifty years before closing in 1969 — Longo’s Pharmacy. The Soda Fountain includes plenty of backstory about this and all the other pharmacies that populated the country.

From its roots in health, “Soda water was first recognized as a medicinal draught — a natural tonic that eased dyspepsia, nerves, fatigue, and more.” To the soda fountain’s increasing popularity, “The soda fountain had both surpassed and seduced the drugstore to become a symbol of the Gilded Era itself, the last two decades of the nineteenth century.” That’s right: nineteenth.

The book also chronicles some of the stranger aspects of fountaindom, as recipes and ingredients sometimes seemed to curve around the bend. Some ideas, like clam soda and hot egg phosphate, are probably best left to history. Some soda fountains served food and sometimes the sandwich possibilities, like the peanut butter, sardine and potato salad on rye, sound either bizarre or maybe prescient. (After all, it’s difficult to know what the next food trend might be.)

Although The Soda Fountain does serves up a lot of information, there are also recipes aplenty. From cocktails to floats to milkshakes, the combinations serve as a bridge to the past and sometimes, a window to the future as well, with concoctions devised by the siblings, who foodies in their own right.

One of the most evocative of the recipes created for Brooklyn Farmacy is the Sundae of Broken Dreams. The genesis of the idea came from the Brooklyn tradition of pairing egg creams with pretzels. Giasullo and Freeman decided to turn the same flavors into an ice cream treat. “A classic American story of rags to riches, perserverance and triumph, the broken pretzel was resurrected in the Sundae of Broken Dreams, alongside vanilla ice cream, swimming in caramel and blanketed by whipped cream. It is a story so salty and sweet, you can cry over it.”

The Soda Fountain also includes recipes for toppings and baked goods. The photos, by Michael Harlan Turkell, will have your mouth watering as you turn the pages. And the ease of most of the recipes — many with as little as three ingredients — will help you turn your own home into a soda fountain whenever the spirit moves you.


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