History: Turkish Delight
Edible History: The Delight of a Turkish Delicacy
Like many young children, I was first introduced to the magical confection called Turkish Delight through The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the inaugural book of the beloved 1940s series The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. In the novel, four siblings are sent to the English countryside for protection during WWII. During their stay at the home of one Professor Digory Kirke, they discover a special wardrobe that acts as a portal to a mystical world — Narnia.
The youngest of the bunch, Lucy, find the wardrobe first, enters into the parallel realm and meets a faun named Mr. Tumnus. Lucy shares tea with Mr. Tumnus and learns of the dangers of the evil White Witch who has grabbed the throne of Narnia from the deserving King Aslan (who just so happens to be a lion). After Lucy returns to her own world, no one believes her stories of Narnia until her older brother, Edmund, enters the wardrobe and finds himself in Narnia, just as Lucy said. Edmund meets the White Witch and is fed an unending supply of enchanting Turkish Delight, which ensnares him into thinking she is beautiful and kind.
While the novel contains an ample serving of mystical things for children to wonder at — fauns, mythical creatures, and a talking lion as the leader of the Kingdom — as a child, what stuck in my mind as the most magic of them all was the Turkish Delight. What was this thing that you could feed someone to ensnare a friendship? Was it the sweetest caramel in the world and Edmund could not resist the queen because it tasted so darn good? Could something like this possibly exist in my world? Could I ever try something this delicious?
So imagine my excitement when I realize that there was such a thing as Turkish Delight! But what is it exactly? Where did it come from? Is it native to Turkey? And is it really the most magical candy in the world?
Turkish Delight, also known as Lokum, is a type of sweet gel made from starch and sugar and can be flavored with rosewater, lemon, mint, cinnamon, or arabic gum (a type of tree sap also known as mastic that is very popular in Greece). It can include chopped dates and nuts such as hazelnuts, pistachios, or walnuts and is usually served sliced into squares and dusted with powdered sugar.