Celebrate the cultural diversity of the Lower East Side/Chinatown! Based out of the landmark Eldridge Street Synagogue, this neighborhood festival spills out onto the street with a multitude of Jewish, Chinese and Puerto Rican tastes, traditions, sights, and sounds.
Sunday, June 16
Noon – 4PM
About the Festival
The Egg Rolls, Egg Creams and Empanadas Festival is the Museum at Eldridge Street’s signature event. Started in 2000, the festival is a celebration of the diverse cultures that make up our Lower East Side/Chinatown community. Along with neighborhood partners, the festival celebrates the folklife of Eastern European Jewish, Chinese, and Puerto Rican communities in this corner of New York City through music, dance, crafts, ritual practices, foodways, and other creative expressions. Our festival is a place of immersive learning, providing a meaningful appreciation of difference and shared identity. We aim to foster cross-cultural communication as we honor the spirit of this ever-changing neighborhood and open a dialogue about the immigrant experience in New York City today. (Check out a behind-the-scenes look at the festival on our blog!)
A sense of place is at the heart of Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas. Over many decades, the neighborhood has been home to myriad communities and cultures, creating new names – Lower East Side, Loisaida, Kleindeutschland, Chinatown – and identities. These communities balance the past, present and future as they navigate the rapidly changing landscape of the city. We embrace the legacy of these Chinese, Jewish, and Puerto Rican cultures and the way they define and redefine this neighborhood.
Folk Arts and Tradition
Through folk arts, which have their basis in community, folk groups reflect and communicate their values, ideas, and beliefs across generations. Music, dance, crafts, ritual practices, foodways, and other traditional art forms may be part of worship, work, or play. They are a part of lifecycle events, holiday celebrations, religious observances, and everyday life. Folk arts are passed down from parent to child, elder to younger, or master to apprentice. In the process, the arts are often adapted to accommodate changing situations. But their roots in tradition are ever present.
At the Egg Rolls, Egg Creams and Empanadas festival, generations will join together to present arts that have stood the test of time, but have never become static. Indeed, traditional arts themselves are a result of the constant continuation and renewal. So join with us today as young and old, father and son, grandmother and granddaughter, master and apprentice, celebrate and share the traditions and arts that bind them together.
2019 Festival: The World of Music
For this year’s iteration of Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas, we are delving deeply into music as a process. How is music made? How is it performed? What is the material culture of making music? Through community partners, we’ve brought together a great roster of artists who speak to the various facets of creating, presenting, and enjoying folk music. Skilled instrument-makers will demonstrate how to build a bomba drum and panderetas. Chinese folk musicians will lead hands-on lessons in playing traditional Chinese instruments. We’ll learn Yiddish songs and dances, move to the rhythms of Plena and Bomba music, and apply face paint for a Chinese opera performance. Please join us as we explore the world of music!
About the Egg Cream
Egg Creams are a classic soda fountain drink popular among Jewish immigrants in the Lower East Side in the first half of the 20th century. Strangely enough, this beverage has neither eggs nor cream, but instead contains milk, syrup, and seltzer water. Made popular at a time when high-end neighborhoods were serving cream sodas (syrup, seltzer, and cream) and ice cream sodas (syrup, seltzer, and ice cream), egg creams were a more economical version for customers on a tighter budget. The name was a genius marketing ploy as upscale soda fountains were also selling a drink called “creamed egg” meant to replace lunch with a blend of eggs, cream, syrup, and seltzer at a premium price. Customers who purchased egg creams in the Lower East Side knew the name was a misnomer but did not mind paying a lower price for a premium-sounding product. As time wore on and Jewish immigrants became more socially mobile, many moved out of the Lower East Side and carried the tradition with them. Egg Creams are often seen as something nostalgic, reminding New York Jews of simpler times. Egg Cream-drinkers argue about the proper methods of mixing an egg cream and what syrups can be used. Egg Creams can still be found at soda fountains in Lower Manhattan and across the boroughs made with classic chocolate or vanilla syrup or new twists, such as papaya.
About the Egg Roll
Egg Rolls, a crisp fried pastry often stuffed with shredded cabbage and pork, were invented in New York sometime in the early 1930s. They belong in the tradition of Chinese-American cuisine created to adapt Cantonese foods to appeal to American tastes. In the 1930s and 1940s, restaurants were an important part of economic survival for Chinese American families. These restaurants generally fell into one of two categories, those that catered to Chinese diners and those that mostly served everyone else. Some of these outsider-focused restaurants were so popular amongst Jewish communities that Yiddish words, such as kreplach (a Jewish dumpling) were used on the menu. Lum Fong’s restaurant on Canal Street served items such as chop suey, chow mein, egg foo young, yat gaw mein, fried rice and the item they claimed to introduce to American menus—egg rolls.
The egg roll is most likely based on spring rolls, which have a thinner, crisper skin and a long history in China. Spring rolls claim their origin from the Eastern Jin Dynasty, when the beginning of spring was celebrated by eating thin cakes filled with vegetables called “spring dish” which later became known as “spring cakes” and were seen to ward off disaster and evil. During the Ming and Qing dynasty, they were transformed into “spring rolls” and became a major snack in the imperial court. Often filled with pork, sweetened bean paste, shrimp, black mushrooms, and garlic chives, today you can find countless variations of spring rolls in different regions of China and across the world.
About the Empanada
Empanadas are a food that span a multitude of historical and geographic reaches in their origin and influences. Empanar literally means to wrap in bread or dough, a technique which makes for great snacks and portable meals by keeping the warm, steamy, heat trapped inside a shell. Possibly the first evidence of an empanada was found in Persia dating from 100 BCE. When the Moors invaded Spain, the Spanish empanada came into being and was later spread throughout Latin America where each country and region developed its own version. In Puerto Rico, these are known pastelillos, a small, deep-fried variant of the empanada. Often eaten as a snack and sold at some kiosks, pastelillos can be filled with things such as ground beef, crab meat, or guava and cheese.