Recent past of our sweetest memories
Passion and chocolate! This is a true match made in heaven. Our quest for true love is an unending journey, sometimes the agony of endless search is soothed by a sweet morsel of chocolate. Slowly melting in your mouth, chocolate surrenders to you obediently, but we all know that it is the one that conquers you and your heart. Maybe that is why Valentine’s Day and chocolate is so closely associated. It is as if they were created for each other, as if they are lovers who have not been separated from time immemorial. However, their relationship is very recent, both are inventions of recent times, despite both of their deep-rooted past in history.
Valentine’s Day is based on the Lupercalia festival in Ancient Rome. This festival was held on Feb. 13-15, with the aim of purifying the city by expelling evil spirits, thus ensuring that the next year will be clean, healthy and full of abundance and fertility. Back then, the festival had little to do with love. But since Lupercus, to whom the festival is dedicated, was the god of fertility, this dimension came to the fore. Before the celebrations, on Feb. 14, young boys and girls would draw lots and pair up to be couples during the celebrations. After Christianity, the festival was attributed to St Valentin, but it was in America in the 1800’s, when it was transformed as Valentine’s Day as we now celebrate. Initially, people were sending cards not only to their loved ones, not necessarily to their better halves, but later it started to be celebrated among lovers, and of course, flowers and chocolates came into play. Interestingly, the spread of chocolate as we know it today coincided with the same period.
Chocolate was initially consumed as a beverage after cocoa was brought to Spain from Central America by Spanish explorers. It was a bitter drink, and the Spanish made it palatable by adding sugar to the concoction. It was the Dutch chemist Van Houten that first managed to remove the bitterness of the cocoa bean, and later it was also him that built a machine that separated the cocoa butter and the cocoa powder. By the progress in such techniques, the production of chocolate as we know it in the modern sense, could begin. The idea of making milk chocolate by adding milk powder to chocolate came from the Swiss. In 1875, the first milk chocolate was produced. Now, the love of chocolate has taken everyone captive, and chocolate has taken its place in every celebration. Of course, Valentine’s Day also joined this passion for chocolate, now chocolates have replaced cards.
In Turkish, chocolate is “Çikolata,” but in our recent past, it was called “Çukulata.” Pretty much like Ella Fitzgerald’s song, “Hotta Chocolatta.” Historian Saadet Özen has this wonderful book about the history of chocolate in Turkey, and it is aptly named “From Çukulata to Çikolata, The Local History of Chocolate,” published by YKY publications in 2014. Özen has done a meticulous work, and just like its name, the book is as sweet as chocolate. Taste it if you can, if you find it, of course, because now it can be traced from rare books, or from second-hand booksellers. There are lots of fun details in the book. Before the word “çikolata,” there were various other names such as “süklat.” The book gives reference to other books, especially to memoirs, such as the famed author Refik Halid Karay’s book “Three Generations, Three Lives.” Karay wrote about the children’s food in the palace during the reign of three sultans, starting with the Sultan Abdülmecid. In his time, there were traditional desserts such as rooster-shaped lollipop and apple candy, water-based pudding with molasses topping and fruit leathers given as sweet snacks to the children in the palace. However, during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz, that is between 1861 and 1876, Western desserts such as biscuits and chocolate came into play during the reign of Abdülhamid after 1876. Sermet Muhtar Alus, on the other hand, wrote in his article “Chocolate and cocoa in the past days of Istanbul” written in 1944 that chocolate was sold at the Bonmarşe Store in Beyoğlu during his mother’s time, namely in the 1870s. It should be noted that these are all foreign brands. In fact, it was a colonial brand with a picture of Menier taken to the palace and a black child on it. In other words, chocolate entered the palace and was first seen on the streets of Beyoğlu at the end of the 19th century. The production of the first domestic chocolate was possible in the Republican period, and even just to support local brands, cocoa and milk powder raw materials were not taxed.
From Loryan to Baylan
Who knows how many couples first met in Kadıköy Baylan. Baylan was originally Loryan based on the word l’Orient, which means East, then Baylan, which means perfect in Chagatai Turkish, was chosen in search of a pure Turkish name. Baylan is a place that has achieved many firsts in chocolate. The late Harry Lenas was, so to speak, a chocolate lover, constantly experimenting and creating new chocolate flavors even at his advanced age. The most famous of these is probably Kup Griye. The excitement of the first date is often remembered by the sweet taste of a Kup Griye once shared. That first date, that first sweet memory, can still be remembered today. Because Altınmarka, which took over the place from Harry Lenas, protects this place without changing it. And with a selection of chocolates created by Harry Lenas himself, including Kup Gray. If you have a memory in that place, Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to revive memories.