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Sweetmeats

Kadaοfi and baklava, halva, sweets, Turkish delight, honey-and-sesame crunch, ritseli, must-jelly, and malebi. At the crossroads of commercial and cultural exchange, Thrace, with its sweetmeats, preserves the memory of a way of life that took shape when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans and the new arrivals in Thrace, nomads and townsfolk of various ethnicities (including Armenians and Jews), enriched the Byzantines’ gastronomic habits with their own cultural experiences.

In the bourgeois environment of the towns, sweets were an everyday pleasure; but until 1955, countryfolk considered them a luxury, permitted only at family and religious celebrations, which were associated with the consumption of specific kinds of sweetmeats.

Confectionery and sweets had hitherto been sweetened with honey and petimezi (a syrup usually made from grape-juice). Saragli, halva, Turkish delight, sweets, sugared almonds, roasted chickpeas, and fondants were all produced by the same empirical methods until industrialisation and wide consumption of sugar in the 19th century changed the products while facilitating production.

Lifestyles have changed and people’s diet is more varied nowadays, but the roasted chickpeas and the syrupy pastries of Thrace still draw us like magnets, giving us the pleasure and the magic of both tradition and luxury.