Turkish Delight

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“It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating,” said the Queen presently. “What would you like best to eat?”

“Turkish Delight, please, your Majesty,” said Edmund.

–The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

I was navigating through the mega-huge Meijer’s near my house, with all five kids in tow. I don’t know this Meijer’s well yet, though we’ve lived here for eight months now. I still can’t figure out the layout, so I end up wandering the aisles looking for toothpicks or biscuit cutters. My kids, though, have the instant recall of youth.

“Mom,” wheedled my seven-year-old, “can we get some Turkish Delight?”

“Honey, they don’t have Turkish Delight here,” I murmured, trying to steer the cart with my elbows while dragging my two-year-old.

“Yes they do,” she pleaded. “I’ve seen it!”

And sure enough, in the ethnic aisle, shelved in the Mediterranean section, was Finest Turkish Delight. I’m always up for something new, and the kids had been good (except the two-year-old, who was on Stinkpot probation), so we picked up a package. What’s good enough to buy cooperation for the White Witch is good enough for me.

There was a quantity of excitement during the day over the impending treat, but I held everyone off until after dinner. Then came the ceremonious Opening of the Box, attended by great fanfare and crowding. Now I’d never had Turkish Delight in my life, and I think I’d imagined something different. For one thing, I’d thought Turkish Delight was brownish and studded with nuts. But in the soft light of evening it glowed seductive and rosy pink under a dusting of white powder. Everyone was instantly sobered by the solemnity of being in the presence of such evil candy.

It turns out that Turkish Delight is a gustatory treat for mature tastes. For one thing, it’s flavored with attar of roses, which bizarrely sensual and yet oddly flavorless. It’s thickly gelatinous. It scatters white powdery residue on your mouth and shirt. It leaves one feeling rather leaden about the stomach. Doubtless Edmund, his appetites sharpened by wartime rationing, thought it simply corking, but the children on this side of the pond quietly deposited their half-gnawed pieces back in the box for Daddy to finish.

My husband asked my nine-year-old, “Would you sell out your sisters for Turkish Delight?”

“No, I’d rather have sisters than Turkish Delight,” she declared.

The box of candy has been sitting in the cupboard, more than half full, for a few days. Yesterday I saw it sitting up there, at a moment when the children were all profitably engaged in some irenic activity, and I had no desire to snitch a piece, even. It’s pretty compelling evidence of the pettiness of evil that Edmund couldn’t even conjure up a desire for chocolate.

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