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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Turkish Delight

Dept of Live 'n' Learn: There I am sidling into the Sprout 'n' Seedling (sounds like one of those own-brewery Real Ale pubs you'd suddenly come across in the wilds of Bourton-on-Water) to ogle Julie Leung's snap of the Turkish Delight she'd tracked down to complete her Narnian nosh-up, and I had no idea it's unknown to you Americans.

Liesl Schillinger's exposé in Slate of this Really Foul Candy piece was a complete eye-opener.

"It's also possible there's a cultural difference," she suggests, going to ask, "Did, or does, the stuff somehow appeal to British taste buds more than to American ones?

Since 1914, an offshoot of Cadbury has been churning out a mass-market "Fry's Turkish Delight" bar, which tastes kind of like taffy."

I can see why the Slate editors give her space; Schillinger has a pen for the witty when she tutors us that, :

"The candy was created hundreds of years ago, when the Sultan Abdul Hamid I "summoned all his confectionery experts and ordered them to produce a unique dessert." The man who came up with Turkish Delight ("Lokum" in Turkish) was made the court's chief confectioner. History reveals that Sultan Abdul Hamid I spent his first 43 years in captivity, imprisoned by his older brother. His sibling, perhaps, sensed the culinary nightmare his baby brother was raring to unleash on the world."
I'm not crazy about it, but I seem to have been eating it most of my life, not to mention bearing it as an offering to posh dinner parties and including it as a Christmas present for at least one family member at gathering.

Certainly, they're not something you want to sit around just shoving blob after blob into your mouth. The gentrified way is:

  • Civilised bite, replace rest of Delight on side plate.
  • Swill of port/brandy/grappa/whatever
  • Slide a bon mot into the conversation
  • Sit back ~ puff cigar ~ savour appreciative laughter ~ allow flicker of a gaze to meet interested female scrutiny.
  • Another sip, another puff.
  • Next bite of the Turkish.

    Funny thing is, we had bags of American pals over there - all dressing and conversing more Englishly than the locals, of course, not to mention single-handedly keeping the tweed market afloat. I don't remember any of them chirping up.

    Not wanting not to fit in, I suppose, but then what about all their kerfuffle over Marmite? No hanging back there  - fake (or not so fake) gagging, blood draining from features, lot of discreet napkin work between mouth and lap.

    That was the funniest thing about country weekends to which Yanks had somehow wangled an invite. A real dilemma for so many transatlantic Anglophiles, crazed by their snobbery to sample the noblesse oblige life as practised by the blue bloods, but terrified of the culinary assault course that comes with it. Breakfast and High Tea seem to present the most formidable challenges ... but I'm getting way off topic.

    All I meant to say was that I had no idea it was a literally foreign delicacy and that the movie may end up answering for more than just a wonky allegory.


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