by Michelle PG Richardson, Guest Blogger
When I was young, winter always meant that “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (the movie of the book by C.S. Lewis), would be on television. It was a special my sister and I never missed. My mom would call the two of us into the den and get us both cozy on the couch. Our TV was a big 70’s color console, and even though we wanted to sit on the floor closer to it, we weren’t allowed. Eight to ten feet back was the rule. Any closer was bad for our eyes.
My sister and I loved that movie. It never got old. It was the first place I’d ever heard of Turkish Delight, the enchanted candies that the White Witch enticed Edward with. They symbolized the sins of the flesh: greed and gluttony; though neither of us understood, nor did we care to understand any of that at the time. We did, however, understand that the crinkle of plastic, and the closing of the freezer door, followed by the rip of foil paper, meant that we were in for a special treat of our own: oven-warmed Twinkies. Golden, creamy perfection.
Sweets were a rarity in my house growing up. Usually it meant a spoon of honey with a piece of walnut. In the summer it meant fruity popsicles, or vanilla ice cream with cut up strawberries. At Christmas it meant Baklava. At New Years it was Vaselopita (a dense spicy cake with a dime baked in – the one who got the dime in their slice would get good luck for the rest of the year).
But in the heart of everyday winter, while The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe played, we got what my sister and I considered the best treat of all, one oven-warmed Twinkie a piece. Though in truth not nearly the same sort of sweet at all, in theory, it was our very own enchanted Turkish Delight. With cream filling oozing out of the three little holes down the middle. We’d count each time. Sometimes, if we were lucky, there would be a crack in the toasty cake that would also ooze cream filling that we could lick up before taking our first bite. We were very proud and savored them as we thought Edward should have savored his Delight. In our opinion, he ate his much too fast. We knew Edward’s desire for an endless supply of his favorite treat. Though unlike Edward, we were content with what we had and would never think of turning on each other for more. Not really.
I’d never given a second thought to real Turkish Delight. They haven’t sold them anywhere I’ve been (though I hear that some fine restaurants in Chicago and New York offer them on their menu). My mother said she’d had them as a child and that they were indeed very rich, and very good, and very small. She grew up in Greece, so I assumed they were an exotic sweet and that perhaps one day, when I got to travel to exotic countries, I might chance upon a fine little shop’s counter display of Turkish Delight and fall in love. I expected I would find them, or they would find me. I never expected that I would be making them myself.
This past year I’ve been dabbling in quite a bit of dessert making, from melt in your mouth, paper thin, butter cookies to decadent chocolate brandy truffles, making up for lost time, I suppose. I found I was rather good at making what most people considered difficult sweets. But I had yet to try something where a candy thermometer was involved. It was time to test my abilities.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe had been strong on my mind. It was, after all, that time of year again, a decades old ritual calling to me. And for the first time, I thought long and hard about Turkish Delight. I dreamed about them. I studied recipes. I became obsessed with the desire to offer my winter guests the food version of “the sins of the flesh”. I wanted to make a creation, an offering, which would entice and mesmerize with every bite that crossed each set of lips. I wanted to be the Queen of decadence. And so I set out to do just that.
Michelle PG Richardson, Eye On Life Magazine