Salı, Nisan 11, 2006


Oxford Londra arasinda ekmek parasi ararken karsima cikan ilginc bir soru beni bir hafta kadar mesgul etti. Soru cok acik ve netti: "Turk lokumu (Turkish Delight) neden Ingiliz toplumu tarafindan kabul gormus ve Noel'de yenen geleneksel bir urun olmustur?". Insan bazi basit olgularin nedenini pek dusunmez. Sanki alistigimiz her sey hep vardi, varolmustu. Hergun kullandigimiz aletlerin ya da yedigimiz ictiklerimizin nasil ortaya ciktigini, ilk kimin kullandigini, nasil topluma yayildigini bilmeyiz. Bugune kadar hic dusunmedigim Turkish Delight sorusuna cevap bulmak icin basladim arastirmaya. Yine dustuk yollara ve basladik yazmaya... Iste sonuc!
Whilst I was strolling between the heavily loaded shelves of Sainsbury’s, a product caught my eye: “Greek Yogurt”. Then, I came across “Italian Olive Oil” in creative dark bottles. Brazil Nuts, Ceylon Tea, Colombian Coffee, Swedish Meatballs and Danish Bacon followed one by one. It did not take me long to find the “Turkish Delight” and eventually the picture was completed. This scene inevitably reminded me of Harrods’ motto; Omnia, Omnibus, Ubique: All things, for all people, everywhere… I was amazed, I was delighted.

However, none of the products named after their countries of origin became as widely known and played such a leading role at Christmas as Turkish delight did in Britain. But why is this?

History tells us that “Rahat ul Hulkum” or “Lokum” (the original names of Turkish delight) was officially created by an Anatolian confectioner Bekir Efendi in 1776. It was at the wish of Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid I, as a way to placate his harem. Lokum was unveiled to the west in the second half of the 1800s. It is not very clear how and by whom Lokum was introduced to Britain. However, the Ottoman reign’s first trip to Europe by Sultan Abdulaziz in 1867 gives us some hints of Lokum’s introduction to Britain. During the Sultan’s visit to Queen Victoria at Crystal Palace in the same year, it is very likely that Lokum was one of the gifts presented to the Queen. Evidently, the taste of Lokum made a lasting impact. It is possible that in the late 1800s, Lokum was brought to Britain by several explorers, travellers and merchants in small amounts for personal consumption. An article in the Sunday Times dated March 24th, 1878 tells us that the Krikorian Brothers, traders from İzmir (Smyrna) launched Lokum in the British market. They started to sell this novelty confection in their wholesale shop in Great Towers Street, London. Presumably the original name was difficult to pronounce and it began to be called “Turkish Delight” because it was a delight from Turkey.

Turkish delight was not simply known as a sweet from the distant exotic land. Actually, there was a hidden symbolism behind it. Diplomatic History shows a correlation between Turkish delight and the “Eastern Question” of the 17th century which briefly emphasized the allocation of Ottoman territories by western forces, especially by Britain. Turkish land was a temptation as was Turkish delight. One for its exotic and special taste, the other for its wealth and rich resources. Therefore, it is not surprising that the British chocolate producer Fry’s (Cadbury’s today) launched “Turkish Delight” with the slogan “full of Eastern promise” in 1914. It was one year before the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign. The Independent Newspaper journalist Jonathan Brown also supports the correlation in his article about Turkish delight, saying that “The collision of cultures has proved an important marketing device for Fry’s…”.

It is very likely that Turkish delight became a traditional Christmas treat because of the story “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” written by Oxfordian scholar C.S. Lewis. In the story there is a whole chapter (Chapter 4) about the character Edmund’s temptation, self indulgence and gratification for Turkish delight. For more than fifty years, the description of this special delight consumed under the snowflakes of the magical land of Narnia caused generations to grow up with the idea of having Turkish delight at Christmas. When we look at the life of C. S. Lewis, we understand that his choosing Turkish delight in his story was not just a random decision. Having lived through two world wars and remembering the difficult times of rationing, especially of sugar, Lewis deliberately chose Turkish delight for his story because like his character Edmund, Lewis also wanted to return to the time before the war when this sweet, exotic, delicious treat would have been eaten happily and freely. In other words, Turkish delight was the symbol of special times before the war.

In December 2005 the appearance of Turkish delight in Disney’s adaptation of C. S. Lewis’s “The Chronicle’s of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” increased the sales of Turkish delight. Tesco reported a 200 per cent increase in sales while Sainsbury’s also experienced the “Narnia effect”.

Apart from being a sweet, the term “Turkish Delight” has some contemporary meanings. In London’s Cockney rhyming slang it means “shite” and Turkish delight is sometimes a euphemism for “hashish”. It is also a nick name for belly dancers. Surprisingly the “Turkish Delight” trademark is registered in England.

Like it or not, delighted or not, Turkish delight is widely known and accepted by British society and has been for more than one hundred years. Thanks to Bekir Efendi!
written by O. Alim Erginoglu
March 2006