Saturday, June 11, 2011

War, Turkish Delight, and A Witch

British troops at Mesopotamia 1915A couple of odd coincidences culminated to suddenly make me want to run out and buy a huge box of lokum, e.g., Turkish Delight. A group of friends of mine were dining together with me in a local restaurant and we got talking about the Mesopotamian Campaign of WWI. This led to talking about the Siege of Kut and that led to mentioning Francis Yeats-Brown’s memoir, Lives of a Bengal Lancer* (1930), but more specifically his first book, Caught by the Turks (1919)+ and that he was imprisoned in central Turkey with other Allied prisoners^ in a town called Afyon Kara Hisar, (Afyonkarahisar).  Which by coincidence, produces some of the best locum in Turkey. I have been there a couple of times and always stopped to buy the local locum. History and locum come together and not for the first time, either. Our get-togethers produce some interesting discussion topics.

Turkish Delight also figures in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe with the White Witch subverting Edmund Pevensie with a magic box of locum. For a sugar-starved youngster in rationed, wartime Great Britain, it must have come as a munificent and unlooked for treat.

 The Queen let another drop fall from her bottle on the snow, and instantly there appeared a round box, tied with green ribbon, which, when opened, turned out to contain several pounds of the best Turkish Delight. Each piece was sweet and light to the very center and Edmund had never tasted anything more delicious. --- At first Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one’s mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat. --- At last the Turkish Delight was all finished and Edmund was looking very hard at the empty box and wishing that she would ask him whether he would like some more. Probably the Queen knew quite well what he was thinking; for she knew, though Edmund did not, that this was enchanted Turkish Delight and that anyone who had once tasted it would want more and more of it, and would even, if they were allowed go on eating till they killed themselves.  The White Queen continues to tempt Edmund with the candy, telling him that "there are whole rooms full of Turkish Delight" at her house.

Britain has had a long-time love affair with Turkish Delight. The Ottoman Empire was a trading partner with Great Britain for centuries and it probably was from Constantinople (Istanbul) that the first sweet-loving Brit bought up boxes of locum and brought them back to Britain. The Crimean War (1853-1856), brought large numbers of allied military personnel to Constantinople on their way to and from the Crimea. Florence Nightingale was also at Constantinople and founded a hospital in the Selimiye Barracks, which still stands. In any case, Victorian shops sold assortments of Turkish Delight and they were loved by generations as an exotic treat from Turkey. It is much less known in the U.S. although it is available here also.

Delight Turkish Delight 300x225 History of Turkish Delight ( Lokum )Be selective in buying Turkish Delight or locum by ensuring that your is fresh and of the best ingredients. Too many people buy stale or poorly stored locum and ruin their experience. Locum comes in many flavors and fillings from rose flavor to walnut and pistachio fillings. I suggest an assortment box for your exploration. This is a authentic pre-Victorian treat, so don’t expect a modern taste.

Although I don’t generally endorse products or businesses (other than mine) but the only U.S. domestic and authentic, commercial volume maker of Turkish Delight is Bayco Confectionary in Bellingham WA. I have gotten a few boxes from them over the years and have been quite happy with their product. I especially like the rose flavored locum.

Locum:   history, war, literature, betrayal, travel, and treats – who could ask for more! P.S. Although I really enjoy a good locum, I might not betray the whole world for some.  Now for a big box of baklava … that’s another story.

Footnotes and links with some updates
*BTW the 1935 movie, Lives of a British Lancer had nearly nothing to do with the book outside of the title.

+Project Gutenberg has a free downloadable digital copy of Francis Yeats-Brown interesting memoir of WWI, Caught by the Turks (1919)

 ^Yeats-Brown and a pilot were destroying telegraph lines on 13 November 1915, prior to an expected Allied relief of Kut and an assault on Baghdad.  Yeats-Brown and his pilot were stranded after their aircraft became damaged on landing and both were captured.  The Siege of Kut was not relieved and the attack on Baghdad was put on hold, not falling until 11 March 1917.  Additionally there were British prisoners from the Mesopotamian Campaign as well as Gallipoli held in an abandoned Armenian Church, in Afyon Karahisar.  There were about 200 British, French, and Russian soldiers and sailors held in the church, including 40 officers, although the officers were later segregated into some smaller billeting in houses in the Armenian quarter.  For more information on the campaign and battles see  and

I found some lovely photos of Afyonkarahisar as it is today:  

1 August 2014 is the 100 anniversary of the start of WWI, I have a blog entry on the subject:


1 comment:

  1. Happy to accept your endorsement! I really wish the UK Turkish delight makers had got their act together in time to make lokum for the LW&W release. Then I might be able to find it for sale at Wal*Mart, instead of hunting on-line.

    The UK version is softer and cut into larger pieces than the original Turkish lokum, although they keep the exotic rose flavouring. The floral taste is in line with other scented British treats, like Earl Grey tea, Parma violet sweets and rose and violet chocolate-covered creams.

    Hubby is the only American I know who likes Turkish delight; everyone else I've given it to spits it out and compares it to soap (It's the gift that keep on giving!)