Jess Zimmerman from AtlasObscura wonders what would the perfect fantasy treat look like? Depending on where you’re from, probably not this… Support our news coverage by subscribing to our Kindle Nation Daily Digest. Joining is free right now!
Turkish Delight, or lokum, is a popular dessert sweet throughout Europe, especially in Greece, the Balkans, and, of course, Turkey. But most Americans, if they have any association with the treat at all, know it only as the food for which Edmund Pevensie sells out his family in the classic children’s fantasy novel The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Until I first tried real Turkish Delight in my 20s, I had always imagined it as a cross between crisp toffee and halvah—flaky and melting in the mouth. Here’s what it really is: a starch and sugar gel often containing fruit or nuts and flavored with rosewater, citrus, resin, or mint. The texture is gummy and sticky, some of the flavors are unfamiliar to American palates, and the whole thing is very, very sweet. (In addition to the sugar in the mixture, it’s often dusted with icing sugar to keep the pieces from sticking together.) While some Turkish Delight newbies may find they enjoy it, it’s not likely to be the first thing we imagine when we picture an irresistible candy treat.
I figured other people who had encountered Narnia before they encountered lokum probably had misconceptions just like mine, so I set out to discover what Americans imagined when they read about Turkish Delight. What kind of candy did we think would inspire a boy to betray his brothers and sisters?
The English name, Turkish Delight, is no misnomer. Turks make and consume lots of lokum, and it’s a popular gift, a sign of hospitality. The candy was invented in the early 19th century, reportedly by confectioner Bekir Effendi—though this claim comes from the company Hacı Bekir, still a premiere manufacturer of lokum, which was founded by Bekir and named after him. (He changed his name to Hacı Bekir after completing the hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca.) According to the Hacı Bekir website, Sultan Mahmud II was so pleased by the new sweet that he named Bekir chief confectioner.
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