In my family, I’m notorious for loving Turkish Delight.
This Christmas, I ordered my own box of Turkish Delight, figuring that since nobody else in the family even likes the stuff, they’d go on ignoring my love of it like always. But, like every other decision I’ve tried to make in 2020 based on past information, “buying my own Turkish Delight” ended up being the wrong choice.
I woke up on Christmas morning to catch my husband putting the finishing touches on a batch of homemade Turkish Delight. And when our gifts from his parents (finally) arrived, there was another box stuffed in between the hand towels I’d requested.
For the first time in my life, I can say that I am in possession of “several pounds” of Turkish Delight at the same time. Which reminded me of someone else who once found himself in possession of several pounds of Turkish Delight.
In C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, second-to-last child and Judas Iscariot stand-in Edmund Pevensie finds himself in Narnia after chasing Lucy into the wardrobe. There, he meets a terrifyingly white woman who styles herself the White Queen, but whom Lucy’s friend Tumnus has referred to as the White Witch.
Her Whiteness not that into Edmund until she realizes Edmund is a “son of Adam” – that is, human. That’s when she invites him to sit in her sleigh and warm up. She gives him a tasty warm drink, and then offers him a snack:
Over the next several paragraphs, Edmund eats the entire box. He leaves the White Queen/Witch feeling rather cross and plotting to exchange his brother and sisters for “roomfuls” of Turkish Delight. In the text, his bad attitude is attributed to the fact that the Turkish Delight is magic, and that given the chance, Edmund might have gone on eating it until it killed him.
Even as a child, I doubted magic had anything to do with Edmund’s desire to eat more Turkish Delight. There were plenty of sweets I would have eaten several pounds of at one go if I’d been allowed.
As an adult, I doubt magic has much to do with Edmund’s mood post-Turkish Delight, either. Here’s why.
According to the manufacturer of this particular brand of Turkish Delight, this is one “piece”:
Traditional Turkish Delight consists primarily of sugar, cornstarch, rosewater, and the occasional pistachio. Some types are made in flavors other than rosewater, but they’re all, at heart, a bit of sugar and cornstarch boiled down to a thick paste.
I usually eat one or maybe two pieces in a sitting. Occasionally I eat three in one go, but I regret it.
This is the box of Turkish Delight from which I took this piece (same teaspoon included for scale):
This box contains 16 ounces, or 1 pound, of Turkish Delight. According to the back of the box, there are about 33 pieces in this one pound. Remember that number; we’ll need it later.
C.S. Lewis doesn’t tell us exactly how many pounds of Turkish Delight Edmund is supposed to have eaten. We know it’s more than one, because Edmund’s box contains “pounds,” plural, and we can guess it’s more than two, because the pounds are described as “several,” rather than “a couple” or “two.”
For the purposes of our math, I’m going to say that Edmund eats three pounds of Turkish Delight. He could possibly have eaten only two, or more than three, but he definitely ate more than one. Three boxes equals about 99 pieces of the size pictured in the teaspoon above.
The back of this box of Turkish Delight states that there are about 50 calories in each piece. One pound of Turkish Delight, then, is about 1,650 calories. This is, very roughly speaking, the amount a 165-pound human burns in a day of being awake, but sedentary.
Edmund eats (I assume) THREE of these in one sitting. That’s 4,950 calories, or more than three days’ worth of calories for a child Edmund’s size, made up entirely of sugar and a little bit of pistachio. Edmund ate six and a half cups’ worth of sugar. In one sitting.
No wonder Edmund has a bad mood and a stomachache when he finally meets up with Lucy!
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