Turkish Delight, episode 1
Turkish Delight: An Episode in the Culinary Life of Aisling Maloney
I take up my pen (and I’m serious, now; I’m writing all this down on paper first, and then I’ll type it out on that time-devouring, hypnotizing, data-collecting mechanic device we call a computer), to tell you a story. It’s a true story. You can know this because 1) if I took the time to create a story I would make it a lot more exciting and literarily dramatic than the one I’m going to tell, 2) because I have gone too long without giving you a “non-fictitious” piece about my commonplace little life, and 3) because I said so (which should’ve been number 1 . . .)
Ahem. This afternoon I found myself making Turkish Delight. See, it happened that my sisters decided we (notice the “we”) should make Turkish Delight, because we had printed a recipe off the Narnia website a few days ago, and we somehow managed to collect a catastrophic number of oranges over Christmas and we needed to do away with them—but we don’t believe in being wasteful over here. So . . . (not “so, to make a long story short”, because I’m going to make a short story long; more like, “so, to get back to my point,”) they started it.
Siobhan and Brianna took to peeling oranges, and laying out the skins. And then . . . they left. Yep. Lunchtime happened, and the job was left and never come back to. Of course Siobhan pulled the “I was never going to make it,” and Brianna wasn’t feeling well or something, so there I was—trapped. The oranges were already peeled, and they were going to get hard! The lemon juice was out, and it was going to ... go sweet (?). Ah, yes, it was a catastrophe. And I had no choice but to sacrifice all my own personal desires and save the day. Alone.
First I went downstairs into the basement on a search for gelatin. If we had no gelatin we’d have no Turkish Delight, come fire or hard oranges. We have a “food cupboard” (in reality, it’s an old metal locker) downstairs, where we keep canned goods and other such things—like gelatin, for example. Well, I ran down the basement steps, and they creaked companionably, and it was chilly down there. There was no fire in the wood stove because the weather was mild, and we’re conserving wood. Well, I found pectin—a whole plastic grocery bag full of little boxes of it, to be exact—but no gelatin. I figured it’d do, and brought one of the boxes up the companionably creaky stairs. Siobhan said pectin is not gelatin, and it won’t work. Well, now, I read on the back of the little box that it can be used as a substitute for gelatin, so I showed her, and went on my solitary quest of saving the day.
Pectin-as-as-stand-in-for-gelatin secured, I took the orange peel and cut it into strips. Weird. But that’s what the recipe said . . . It was really rather therapeutic, cutting through the soft foam-like orange peel with a tiny knife. It was probably the plastic Tupperware lid I was cutting on, too. Don’t worry, I made sure I wasn’t leaving marks.
Well, then I had to squeeze the juice out of the orange. We don’t have one of those useful dome things that you put the half of the orange on and push and twist and squish it till all the juice comes out—or if we do, no one knows where it is, and I wasn’t about to exhaust myself and waste precious time looking for it. I figured it wouldn’t work anyway, since the orange was already peeled and partway split up, and couldn’t well be cut in half and squished. So I had to use this little single-slice orange juicer. Ten odd slices, a sticky ear and neck, kinked fingers, and a stinging eye later, I was ready to start cooking my candy.
Consulting the recipe again, I read I was to pour half the allotted water into a pot. I am still confused about that. Nowhere in the recipe does it say what to do with the other half . . . I’m serious. It just doesn’t. So why they had to make me figure out what half of 1 1/4 is, instead of just telling me in the first place that I needed . . . wait, what is half of 1 1/4? and how did I ever figure it out? I’ll never know. Anyway, I dumped the 1/3 a cup of orange juice (all that work, squeezing that little orange-slice-juicer thing, for a mere third of a cup!) the orange peel slices, and an indefinite amount of lemon juice into the pot. It looked really weird. but, stirring dutifully, I brought it to a boil—using a good old wooden spoon, of course; whenever I do anything, I do it with a whole-hearted old-fashioned flair. You can’t stir something like Turkish Delight with an ugly plastic spoon. The stuff hissed like an angry goose whenever the spoon touched the side of the pot, or splashed the juice up farther than it had touched before. The orange peels started turning mushy, too, like gummy worms. And then there was this deep gurgling noise that sounded like a rather bubbly interpretation of the drums in the deep of Tolkien’s Moria. So I was glad when it finally boiled and I could turn it down to a safe simmer.
For fifteen minutes?? It seriously wanted me to simmer it for fifteen minutes! I figured I’d better. I stirred it every five minutes or so, and it created a yellow foam—like the scum on the top of the creek in the backyard. Yuck. But once I took the spoon out again it would settle back down into a gently-bubbling yellow potion. I started getting nervous, then, because I only used lemon juice, not the peel, because we didn’t have any lemons. I looked around for something else to flavor it with, but garlic and purple cabbage didn’t seem too Turkish-Delight-appropriate. Orange and lemon juice would have to do. There were frozen peaches ion the freezer, but if peach-orange sounded fine, peach-lemon was a little less appetizing. While in the freezer—that is, while looking in freezer-I found some Dairy Queen ice cream cake from . . . let’s see, when is that from? At least two weeks ago. But it’s one of those things that doesn’t go bad, you know; freezer burnt, maybe, but not bad. It tasted all right. I just had to eat it, you know; left any longer, it might have gone bad. Besides, it’s a little boring standing and stirring a pot of orange liquid for fifteen straight minutes. To eat ice cream cake I needed a fork, though, and there weren’t any in the drawer, so I had to get one out of the drain board. That made me feel like I really should put the dishes from the drain board away. (Haha. I should write a children’s book: “If You Give Aisling A Turkish Delight Recipe.”)
Well, the potion simmered away. It started smelling like orange marmalade, but that faded into something queer—and it smelled like I wasn’t going to like how it tasted. The clock (Actually the two clocks—we have a clock on our stove, and a clock on our coffee maker, right next to our stove . . . don’t ask) were nearing the fifteen minute mark—2:27 pm. I finished my cake and got the pectin-as-a-stand-in-for-gelatin ready. There was a little packet also enclosed in the box, of some kind of help-the-pectin-gel powder, if you were to use it with low-calcium fruits; but I figured oranges and lemons were pretty calcium-rich.
The clocks turned 2:27 (or one did, the other one already had; I went by the slow one just to be safe), and I read the next step again. Soak the gelatin in the mixture? What’s that supposed to mean? Beyond me. I measured out the four teaspoons and dropped them in, stirring it up enough to cover all the powder with liquid. But of course it formed a thousand little balls of gel and stuck there. I ignored it and let is sit—“for five to ten minutes”? What did they mean by that, now? Five? Or ten? Or eight and a half? Aarrgg. I decided to give it the ten, and go look for a pan to pour it in when it was done “soaking”. I read the direction again to see what kind of a pan.
A dampened pan?? I thought "5-10 minutes" was bad! Good grief—what in the world is dampened pan? Ahhh . . . but it says: “or a platter”. I decided to go the platter route and detour the whole dampened thing. I ran downstairs again, this time after a platter—with a vague, wishful image in my head of a patterned dish that would leave a pretty design in the candy. Eight minutes later I came back upstairs with a platter I decided wouldn’t work anyway because it was too shallow, and petal-like around the edges. I actually went back down then, after another simpler something, but I decided it wouldn’t work either—it was covered with a doubtful silver flaky coating, and I didn’t want to take the chance of that coming off in my precious delight. So that left . . . a dampened pan.
I got an inch-deep cookie sheet from the convection oven, and took a towel, wet it, and rubbed it over the pan. Just to be sure it wasn’t wet instead of damp, I wiped my hand over it to pick up any excess moisture. Dampened pan? Check. Mixture? Check. Time? Ready. Oooh, strainer! I pulled one out of the handy dandy drain board (I didn’t say I put all the dishes away . . .), and dried it off quickly. Holding it over the pan—the dampened pan—I poured the mixture through it. The orange peel and globs of pectin caught in the strainer and looked very weird—leaving a sticky orange-ish liquid in the pan. Ahem, the dampened pan. But it hardly covered the bottom. I stared at it dumbly. The cookie sheet was too big, long, wide . . . too something. Drat.
I hurriedly scraped the orange-peel-pectin goop into the garbage, threw the strainer into the sink, and yanked the cupboard open to find something else to put the candy in. All I could find was an oval-shaped blue plastic serving plate. Oh, well. I swallowed my plastic prejudice. It’d have to do. I poured the sticky orange-ish liquid into the dish (after carefully dampening it, jut to be safe), and scraped the last of it off the wicked cookie sheet with a spatula. A plastic spatula. *sniff* The blue plastic of the new dish gave the liquid a weird look, but I wasn’t going to get picky about appearances.
In the process I dropped a few (notice the “few”) drips onto the floor, splattered my face (but that’s ok, isn’t orange good for the complexion or something?), and burnt my finger. Ouch. But cold water fixed it well enough; I was too preoccupied to care. Naughty me was glad I wasn’t dishes on Tuesdays. I was making a sticky mess . . . Now the Turkish Delight had to “set” for 24 hours. Yep, twenty four hours. I put a pan over it—an un-dampened pan—with a sign: “Turkish Delight in the making: do not touch.”
Good riddance! It better be worth all this!
(To be continued . . .)