turkey v. turkey

Turkish delight was always a mystery to me. When I was in elementary school I read about it in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. You know the story, yes? Edmund meets the White Witch while traipsing through the wintry Narnia. The Witch, representing all that is evil (of course satan is a woman duh), lures him in by offering the magical treat. Using the trick of every sidewalk crack dealer (or so I’ve heard) she gives him the first taste of Turkish delight for free. After that he can only get more if he does her bidding. A food powerful enough to make a kid sell his soul to the devil. Tell me more!

Now, as an ignorant young child the only turkey I knew of was the gobble-gobble kind we ate for Thanksgiving. Turkey the country? Nope, sorry. Never heard of it. It was only later when I was a bit older and received a globe for Christmas that I discovered there was a country named Turkey. Do they have a lot of turkeys there, I wondered? I thought it peculiar to name a country after a bird. Though not as peculiar as the country of Chad which happened to share the same name as a doofus boy in my class.

While I would grow up to become slightly more knowledgeable about many things, including geography, I read the The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in my pre-globe era. Thus, I was consequently left with the lasting impression that this “turkish delight” must be tasty morsels of turkey meat. Sometimes at night, before I fell asleep, I salivated at the thought of this savory snack.

But it turns out it’s not meat at all. (You knew this already though, right? You are so much smarter than me!) While I’m sure I realized at some point that Turkish delight referred to some kind of food from the country of Turkey, I still didn’t really know what it was. In fact, I can neither confirm nor deny that it was not until I read this Slate article published in 2005 (which would have made me, oh, about 26 years old) that I realized it was candy. Candy! Imagine that.

Anyway, even after reading the article I still had only a vague idea of what it was. So last week when I found myself traveling through Turkey (the country), I knew that trying this mysterious candy would be a top priority.

Have you tried it for yourself? No? Well, folks, I’m going to save you all the confusion I once experienced. I’m going to tell you exactly what it is:

Gumdrops and marshmallows. That’s it. Gumdrops and marshmallows.

Now, it’s good gumdrops and marshmallows. When it’s fresh the little squares are squishy and soft. Though, as the article describes, they do also kind of stick to your teeth a bit, so if you have loose dental work I would recommend steering clear. But it’s tasty. Would I sell my soul to satan for more? No. But I did bring some back as gifts for my host mom and coworkers and it was a hit.

So here is a close-up for your viewing pleasure. Now you don’t have to live in the ignorance and confusion I once found myself. I feel good about pulling back the cover on this mysterious confection. It’s yeoman’s work, but important work. Enjoy!

Turkish delight. Not made from bits of turkey. The rose, lemon, and orange flavored ones are like gumdrops dusted in powdered sugar. The others are like homemade marshmallows which are then rolled in crushed pistachios, shaved coconut, or cocoa powder.

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62 Comments

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62 responses to “turkey v. turkey

  1. I wouldn’t mind trying these. I like the sound of the ones that are rolled in crushed pistachios or cocoa powder. Sounds tasty to me.

    • They are delicious. Not as delicious as baklava, which I ate pretty much nonstop while in Turkey (the country), but still quite good. I highly recommend trying it if you ever find yourself in Istanbul!

  2. Kristy

    Aaahhhhh! I always thought it was turkey, too!! This is why it was a brilliant idea to keep a blog–so you can edumicate people like me.
    PS. Somehow I’m having trouble letting go of my misconceptions, and I’m imagining those treats in the picture taste like turkey. Hmm.

    • I feel relieved to find out I wasn’t alone! I suspect there must be oodles of American kids who were similarly confused.

      Also, maybe you don’t have to get rid of your misconceptions. I think turkey-flavored Turkish delight has market potential.

  3. Colleen

    As a teacher this reminds me to do a better job teaching vocabulary!! Thanks for the laughs Kelley. You never disapoint me.

    • Thanks, Colleen. :) When we do our WWS project this coming year we can show the students that not only is there a country named Georgia, but that it’s bordered by a country called Turkey!

      • The funniest part is that, in the West, turkey the bird is probably named after Turkey the country. But when you go to Turkey, the bird is called Hindi, after India. So we are wondering if Indians introduced turkey to Turks, and then Turks introduced turkey to Europe. This would explain why the bird is called what it is in all these different countries.

        In India and Pakistan, we just call it “Feel Murgh” which means “elephant chicken”, although I found one reference to it as “Pharoah’s chicken” so maybe that means that the Africans, or at least Egyptians, introduced the bird to us.

        My favourite Turkish delight (or Lokum) are the ones with nuts, especially pistachoes and hazelnut ones. And they are fabulous with a glass of hot Turkish tea.

  4. Well thank you for ruining my fantasy of turkey flavored candies, I was quite happy living in ignorance. Next you’re going to tell vampires and werewolves are imaginary.

  5. I had NO idea! Of course, I used to also think hot dogs were comprised of dog meat. I may just be gullible…
    ;)

  6. As soon as you said “Turklish Delight” I thought of CS Lewis. I didn’t think it was made of turkey, but I had no idea what it was!!

  7. Denise

    I wonder if perhaps in the day of CS Lewis, sweets were more of a rarity, and thus a gumdrop & marshmallow confection, a much bigger deal, even perhaps worthy of selling one’s child soul.

    • That makes a lot of sense, what with the rationing that would have been happening at the time. The Slate article I linked to mentions this.

      Let’s be honest, I know if I were deprived of sweets I would be willing to do terrible things to get them back.

  8. Turkish Delight is heaven in a squidgy block. I’ve always loved it. I assume from your About Me page that you are born and bred American? If so then I’m not sure if you will have heard of Frys Turkish delight. It’s chocolate coated Turkish delight so it’s an acquired taste, and is nothing in comparison to the real thing, but it’s good for the kids if they’re a bit weary of it. Coat it in chocolate and everyones a winner! I once had Cyprus delight, which is essentially the same thing but funnily enough, from Cyprus.

  9. I used to live in Turkey, and I get the “so was Turkey named after the bird, or was the bird named after Turkey??” a lot :D

  10. I never would have guessed “gumdrops and marshmallows” either. In the movie, it looks like lemon squares.

  11. kaypix

    That was a fun little read, I had forgotten all about Turkish Delight! Now I have to dig the books out of storage…dangit!

    • I did find that having the Turkish delight has left me thinking a lot about the books again. It’s jogged all these memories I had misplaced in my noodle.

  12. I’ve always wanted to know what Turkish Delight was. To a pick eater, it actually sounds kind of good.

  13. I had never thought that Turkish Delights were made of meat, but I DID think they were like a caramel-filled candy. I had no idea what they were really made of! Thanks for enlightening me, and congrats on being Freshly Pressed! :)

    • Thank you, Claudia! I do think C.S. Lewis should have included better descriptions, perhaps even illustrations. Clearly this confusion is rather widespread and, dare I say, serious.

  14. Who knew? They look utterly DELIGHTful!

  15. I was amazed when I had my first bite of rose Turkish delight. It tasted like roses, and not meat! But not gross, planty roses – sweet, fluffy ones. Thanks for the post!

  16. I couldn’t sort out what they were, either, because we don’t really eat them in the US! Or didn’t in the 80s; I did find them at Trader Joe’s in the late 00s.

    I imagine the whole “selling out for sweets” thing was because of sugar rations during WWII. Clearly Edmund had a bit of a sugar problem, though.

    • Exactly, no one I knew was eating Turkish delight in my little Ohio town back in the 80s! It’s not our fault we were in the dark. But I have heard from a friend who still lives there that apparently they can now be found at a middle eastern market in town so perhaps future generations will not be so naive.

  17. Pingback: turkey v. turkey (recipe) « My Favorite Spaces

  18. I also had no clue what Turkish delight was when I read the book in my childhood years. For some reason I imagined some sort of pastry in my head. Maybe I just didn’t think turkey was delightful enough?

    Anyway, I tried real Turkish delight this past summer when traveling through Europe and it was DELICIOUS! I ate so much of it that I’m sure it made me sick. That may also be related to the fact that I was a starving backpacker at the time.

    I recently learned as of a few days ago that you can easily make it yourself just out of starch! (and sugar, etc) Right now though, a delightful piece of turkey meat sounds quite tasty though. Excellent post; I enjoyed it!

  19. Pingback: turkey v. turkey « My Favorite Spaces

  20. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed – I enjoy Turkish Delight – but haven’t tried the ones with crushed pistachios or cocoa powder – definately want to source some of these – Thank you

  21. Oh sweet turkey, what a delight !!!

  22. Sounds very delightful and it looks great…

  23. Loved the post. I never thought it was turkey-turkey but when I read The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and Edmund liking the Turkish Delights I was like um…what now? So funny that someone else did as well. Congrats on FP!

  24. The only Turkish Delight that I’ve ever tried are the ones coated in Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Holy wow, it was like a revelation. I still want to try real Turkish Delight though.

  25. samokan

    I had my first taste of Turkish Delight last year. When I saw the box, I immediately thought of CS Lewis but to my disappointment, I did not like it :( .

  26. Haha I love the humour you brought into this post. I also heard about Turkish Delight the first time when I read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe as a kid, but fortunately I didn’t think it was turkey meat (maybe because I don’t eat turkeys). Then I did taste Turkish Delight a few years later (I think it was exported from Turkey (the country)). I haven’t visited Turkey (the country) to try out the real stuff! Great post!

  27. Congrats on freshly pressed. I love turkey delights! It is true not all are great !

  28. aygulsalahli

    Reblogged this on Aygül Salahlı.

  29. emmalaw

    A fun read! Sometimes you can have so much to say in expected places! :)

  30. Looks yummy!! Thanks for sharing :)

  31. msperfectpatty

    It sounds so tasty!

  32. I lived in Turkey ten years ago for a year. Another curious thing is that it was very hard to find turkey to eat. They claim the meat is tough. We were trying to make a thanksgiving meal and the turkish family hosting it sent their driver out and told him not to come back until they found a turkey to cook. Took him all day and he had to drive all over Istanbul. I think it is a little easier to come by now. Also marshmellows too, they were a rarity!

  33. Juno

    Hint to those seemingly puzzled by Edmund’s overwhelming desire for Turkish Delight: Jadis was a witch…it was ENCHANTED Turkish Delight.

    The chocolate covered stuff is nothing like the real thing and is pretty revolting IMO

  34. tarrtarr

    the only turkish food i’ve had is baklava and that is downright delicious. as far as gumdrops and marshmallows and other gummy desserts go, I’m not fan, so I’ll take your word on this one!

  35. I’ve only had the rose flavor, which I did not care for, however I did enjoy the texture. I didn’t even know other flavors existed…I shall have to try them!

    http://itscalledaswimmersbun.wordpress.com/

  36. Fidel

    You didn’t have the kofte?!?! I know they’re only meatballs but something about eating them in Turkey – yum. I think they’re lamb…now those I ate everyday!

  37. Pingback: …That's Where You Are » Eating Our Way Through Turkey

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