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Turkish delight

For anybody who read (or watched an adaption of) C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, there comes a critical time in their life -- the first time they eat Turkish Delight. Edmund sells out his family to the White Witch who gives him the delicacy, and we’re told that it is so delicious that he, quite literally, can’t get enough of it, and he makes himself sick by eating so much.

Trying Turkish Delight for the first time can therefore be a disappointing experience. Even if you like it, is it so delicious that you would give personal information about your siblings to a strange woman so that you could have some more? Probably not -- but that does also depend on how well you get on with your immediate family.

The answer as to why C.S. Lewis chose this sweet treat as Edmund’s temptation over something else is interesting. His novel was set during the outbreak of World War II when rationing was coming into full effect, so desserts and delicacies were becoming a distant dream. Turkish Delight was not in common circulation even during times of abundance, however -- in Britain’s Victorian period it was difficult to replicate because the ingredients (starch, powdered sugar and whatever flavouring you fancy, usually rosewater or lemon) were not of the same standard as they were in Turkey. Having ‘real’ Turkish Delight imported was therefore a status symbol, and so Edmund’s infatuation with it is slightly more justified. It signals to Lewis’ readers that in Narnia, the normal rules of the wartime era, as well as the century before, are thrown out of the window (the talking lion, the witch and the magic wardrobe door also indicate that).

Happily, Turkish Delight is slightly more common in the twenty-first century, as are other ‘delights’ from that part of the world. Hope Street Hotel Spa is now offering the Turkish Hammam treatment as one of its signature treatments. This involves getting rubbed, scrubbed and oiled in a slightly warmer setting than the snow-dappled vista of Narnia and is finished off with mint tea and handmade Turkish Delight.

I almost wish that technology had advanced so far that we could hop into a time machine and enter the parlour of the nineteenth-century bourgeois with a tray of the stuff, just to see their faces when we told them that the delicacy they are showing off to their green-eyed friends is readily available at Hope Street. They’d probably have a lot of questions, one of which might be why is The London Carriage Works a restaurant now, and not, as it was to them, a literal carriage works -- but I’m sure they’d also ask how we had the means to have handmade Turkish Delight readily available for our spa guests.

That will, of course, remain our secret -- but we’re confident that it’s of such a good standard that Edmund would sell out his brothers and sisters a few more times if he ate it himself.

By Jessica White