“She knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who tasted it would want more and more of it….”
—The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
I have often heard my husband wax nostalgic about growing up in a humble row house on the north side of Cork. So I was delighted when he suggested that we take an evening stroll along the River Lee and continue up the very steep Alexandra Road to St. Lukes and Cahill Ville Road to visit the ghosts of his childhood past.
Along the way, we made several stops, one of them being a small off-license (or liquor store) to buy a bottle of wine for our dinner hosts that evening. As B finished paying for our Chenin Blanc, my eye was drawn to an exquisite pink-and-gold box on a shelf beside a jar of Branston Pickle that read: Hadji Bey’s Turkish Delight. Oh, what enchantment it seemed to promise…
Having grown up in the suburbs of San Diego, this exotic treat was about as foreign to me as, well, Turkey, until I read CS Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. In the story, the young Edmund Pevensie risks casting the kingdom of Narnia into an interminable winter when he greedily devours magic Turkish Delight from the evil White Witch—an image I have come to associate with a certain scrappy Irish boy.
There are many versions of this exotic sweet made from corn flour, flavorings, and sugary syrup. But Hadji Bey’s original rose recipe has been a part of Ireland’s food tradition since 1902, when a young Armenian named Harutun Batmazian established a shop and factory in Cork City.
“Ha-geee-baaay,” B drawled delightedly in his thickest Cork accent. “I had no idea you could still get the stuff.”
And with that we bought the last two boxes to take home as souvenirs.
Package in hand, we continued our walk, and, like Proust’s famous incident of the petit Madeleine, long-dormant memories of No. 6 Cahill Ville Road—Sunday suppers with Auntie Jo; football in the back lot; escapades with the neighbors Dorgan—came alive for the both of us.