Have you ever loved someone so much it took your breath away to think of them leaving you? I have. I live in a constant state of anxiety worrying about the day when I’m left alone without them here to speak to, to touch, to love on. A constant state of anxiety. This is a post about Loukum or Turkish Delights- but more so about my loves.
Turkish Delights which were made famous by a one C.S. Lewis. The very same Lewis who penned the epic The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and all the other Chronicles of Narnia novels. I’m looking at those novels, with their worn and tattered covers, as they sit on a bookshelf not too far from where I sit typing this post. Beyond that bookcase are the hands that have aged those books, attached to the bodies of those whose love takes my heart ache.
I always refer to them here, and pretty much everywhere, as the Wonder Twinks or the Twinks, for short. They are my treasures-my most precious gifts. They are who I pled to God for many a night. Who’s lives required my confinement to a bed, and later to a hospital ward. Who I gave up sleep for to keep vigil over, fearful their breaths would not come to them. My chest hurts when I think of life without them, and even now, as I see these words forming on the computer screen, I fear that my admission of this fear will cause my terrors to materialize. And I can only pray that heaven forbid.
The Bible speaks of a woman named Hannah who suffered for years with infertility. She was plagued by a spiteful, and fertile, sister-wife who tormented her with the many sons and daughters she birthed with Hannah’s husband, Elkanah. In my faith, many women who suffer with infertility pray Hannah’s prayer. They can relate to her all too painfully. Culturally, most don’t have a sister-wife; but the mocking sting of barrenness- a period that comes when you’re certain your pregnant, the invitation in the mail to yet another friend’s baby shower, the lacerating question, “So, when are you two going to have a baby of your own?”- all act as an emotional Peninnah. Women find it more bearable to confine themselves to their bedrooms to mourn their fertility, than to face the abrasive nettles of insensitivity beyond the doors of their homes.
I was a Hannah. What’s more, I was an Ana– a Latina Hannah.
In my and my husband’s culture, children are an expectation; a demandingly harried expectation at that. Shortly after the wedding, the interrogations commenced, “What about a baby?” never asked with any concern of seeming impertinent. It was their right to ask- or so they assumed. “You’re not getting any younger,” never mind that I was only 21. I was becoming an old-maid before their eyes. It all would have been comical had we not been so desperate to fulfill their commands (or our desires) of producing a child. We were fiercely desperate, in fact. It wasn’t happening, and every abrasive comment inquiring as to why it wasn’t happening pushed me further into my den of melancholy. My Elkanah tried desperately to restore my faith, but even he began to sink into a pit of despair. Many nights were spent at the foot of our bed, praying together for a child. Just one. Please…
Infertility in the Christian church is still, very much, a taboo subject.
“Sister, you must trust God.”
Sure, that’s all well and good. I do trust Him, but I’m sad. I’m hurt. I’m confused and I have questions.
“Don’t question. Just have faith.”
Abraham questioned. Moses questioned. Saul and David questioned…I have questions.
“Maybe you’re not meant to be a mother.”
I’m not? Then why do I long for it so?
There were so many times I felt abandoned by those who I felt were supposed to encourage me and advise me. Maybe they believed their advice was what God wanted me to hear. Maybe they truly felt that God’s will was for me to be childless…why? I couldn’t- and still to this day can’t- answer. It was a cruel punishment to assign to one who desperately longed to feel the jostling of life within her womb. Cruel.
But God continued to renew a hope in my heart despite every negative declaration over my life. For every, “You’re not meant to…” God responded with, “I will.”
“Just move on,” was answered with, “Hold on.”
“Your sin is blocking your blessing,” was rebuked by God saying, “I’m going to show myself to you.”
My husband and I decided to consult a fertility doctor. German doctors were very different from American doctors. Instead of leading us on, cold, hard facts were given to us and we were left to sift through the information and reconcile it between ourselves. Statistics were handed out along with the tissues, “You may, but it’s more likely you won’t. I’m sorry.”
Our hopes for medical intervention were met with the criticism of the elect, “You’re trying to play God.”
“No. We just want to have a baby.”
“If God wanted you to have a baby, you’d get pregnant on your own.”
“What about the skills he gave to the doctors to help us?”
“God won’t bless your lack of faith.”
We went through with the drugs. The painful development of eggs. The prayers that one would be fertilized. The report that one…no, two…babies were visible. You’re having twins. You’re pregnant. And God’s voice whispered to my heart, “See? I heard you.”
They’re getting too big.
They’re measuring ingredients. Handling knives that are too big and sharp. They’re holding books about children who leave home for far off places.
They’re learning how to leave me. And I’m teaching them to do it.
The same babies I cried for, desperate to see their faces and hear their voices. I’m giving them the power they will need to walk away from my home and my safety; and I’m desperate to stop myself from doing it. But, I can’t. I know they have to leave me and the pain in my chest becomes so unbearable. The knot in my throat so agonizing. And the whole time they look at me with a glint in their eyes. They have no idea that my heart is breaking at the thought of them leaving. But I teach them to anyway. I have to. My fear of failing them is greater than my fear of them walking away.
Loukum takes a while to prepare, but when you look at it, it seems so simple. It is a candy that is sweet, floral, delicate, and full of bite; but it takes time to create, it takes patience, and knowledge of when enough is enough. Enough heat. Enough stirring. Enough. My babies are my “delights”. That’s what I told them as we made them. They are my sweet, delicate, rambunctious delights. I’m molding them into something wonderful and I will learn when enough is enough. Right now- it’s not enough. I’m so relieved by that. So we make memories while we wait.
My loukum is fairly traditional in that I make it with rosewater. That may well be the only traditional aspect to it, as I’ve developed the technique to suit me and, now, my babies. If ever I had a recipe to prove that my babies need me, loukum is it. It’s the perfect recipe for big people, but it’s so much fun for little ones. The stirring gets to be a bit much for them, so they look to you to help them. It’s a weird thing to enjoy co-dependence- I admit it. Loukum, at least my loukum is made with cornstarch. It can, most certainly be made with gelatin, but I’m not a fan, so I avoid it when I can. Flavorings vary like the winds. Rosewater is a unique favorite of our family, but orange blossom water, lemon essence, coconut, strawberry…any number of flavors are possible if you allow your imagination to go wild. The citric acid may be replaced with lemon juice if it’s not easily attainable.
My thoughts are with those of you who are struggling, in silence or aloud, with the desperate desire to give birth to or have a child of your own. I hope you would allow me the honor and privilege of praying for you. If you have been the recipient of God’s blessing after barrenness, I invite you to share below as way to offer hope to those who feel like all hope is gone.
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2½ cups water, divided
- 1 tsp citric acid
- ¾ cups cornstarch
- ½ tsp cream of tartar
- ½ tbsp rosewater or any flavoring of your choice
- 2 drops red food coloring, optional
- powdered sugar (icing sugar), as needed
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.
- In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, ½ cup water and citric acid. Stir to dissolve and heat over medium-high heat to boiling, stirring frequently. Brush down, with a wet pastry brush, any sugar crystals that may stick to the side of the pan. This, if done, will prevent the sugar crystals from being reintroduced to the boiled sugar and causing it to crystalize (thus making it unusable).
- Monitor the temperature of the sugar and continue to boil until it reaches 230°F.
- Once the mixture reaches 200°F, begin to cook the cornstarch mixture in a separate pot.
- Combine the remaining water, the cornstarch and cream of tartar with a whisk and bring to a boil over med-high heat. The mixture should thicken and begin to look like vaseline (or petroleum jelly).
- Once the cornstarch mixture is cooked, and the sugar has reached 230°F, CAREFULLY and slowly pour the sugar mixture into the cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. The sugar will cause severe burns if it comes into contact with your skin, so please, be careful.
- Return the mixture to the stove and continue to cook for 20 minutes on low. the mixture will take on a golden yellow color and become very thick- like a paste.
- Once the mixture has thickened, add the rosewater flavoring and the red food coloring. Stir to incorporate fully.
- Carefully, pour the mixture into your prepared pan and spread out evenly.
- Allow to sit for 12-24 hours, uncovered to prevent sweating (or a buildup of moisture).
- After the rest period, dust the surface of your counter generously with powdered sugar using a sifter.
- Remove the loukum from the pan by lifting the foil out, and flip the loukum onto the powdered surface carefully. Remove the foil and discard.
- Generously dust the other side of the loukum with more powder sugar (this will help your loukum from sticking to everything).
- Using a very sharp knife with a thin, oiled blade (use a flavorless oil like canola), cut the loukum into 1 inch squares.
- Dust each square liberally with powdered sugar and place onto a serving dish.
- Loukum is best enjoyed the same day or within 24 hours.
- Store uncovered in a cool, dry area.