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Odalisques blog

The Female Slave Market in Constantinople (1 Mar)
From the slave market to the sultan's bedchamber (17 Feb)
Buying a new slave for your harem (4 Feb)
Odalisquian books list now on Odalisques.com (29 Jan)
Edward Lane's descriptions and drawings of female clothing (27 Jan)
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"The Arab Scribe" by J.F. Lewis, 1852
"The Bath" by J.L. Gerome, in the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
"Odalisque" by Max Nonnenbruch
"By order of the sultan" by Antonio Fabres
"Idle Moments" by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1875
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© Tanos
1997-2016

Turkish Delight

Posted by Tanos on Fri 26 Apr 13, 8:42 PM

No harem room is complete without a bowl of Turkish delight at hand and a slave to keep it refilled. I've loved the stuff since a girlfriend brought me some back from Istanbul years ago. Now I have this brass bowl from Turkey in my own Hareem and always have a box or two in a draw of the sideboard.

I didn't always like Turkish delight though. I used to think that Fry's Turkish Delight made by Cadbury's was Turkish delight, and I don't much care for it. If you've never had it, Fry's Turkish Delight is a chocolate covered jelly confection, that comes in bars. A bit like a flat Mars bar with jelly bean material on the inside.

However, I was very aware of it because the TV ads were so tempting. The slogan was "Fry's Turkish Delight - full of Eastern promise" and showed a tearful harem girl pining for a Rudolph Valentio-style desert sheikh, who arrives, and finds one of the chocolate bars. The ad is full of these Orientalist references: the sheikh even produces a scimitar to cut the bar in half. It's on YouTube at the moment.

But Fry's Turkish Delight isn't the genuine article at all. The real Turkish delight, which the Turks call lokum, doesn't involve chocolate, comes as cubes dusted in icing sugar, and is rose or fruit flavoured perhaps with nuts embedded in the cubes (though I don't like it with nuts.)

It appears that Turkish delight was invented in Istanbul as lokum in the late 18th century and became popular in Europe in the 19th, although it often appears in Orientalist fiction set much earlier too.

It even has its own song in the 1950s musical romp "Kismet", as this soundtrack album cover shows with Lalume (Dolores Gray) offering some Turkish delight to the poet Hajj (Howard Keel). In the scene, Lalume is the favorite wife of the vizier and is trying to seduce Hajj, and her and the vizier's other wives and slavegirls sing about Turkish delight (rahadlakum): "On nights when my lord looketh listless // And black is the hue of his gloom // His handmaiden hath what he lacketh // And what doth he lack? // Rahadlakum!"

Going back to the picture in my Hareem we started with, the traditional style brass Turkish delight bowl from Istanbul keeps the Turkish delight from drying out (as if it lasts that long uneaten!) and works well with a paper cupcake case to catch the icing sugar that accumulates. The box of Alaeddin Turkish Delight was bought in Istanbul too, and is what you find in corner shops and supermarkets there. It does appear in the UK as well, but supermarkets here sell own-brand Turkish delight in the Turkish style too (as well as all the Fry's bars in a different section!)


Edited Sat 27 Apr 13, 1:00 PM