Taffy was a Turk

… well, sort of Turkish. In fact,

Taffy was a sweetmeat,
Taffy was a Turk,
Taffy came to my house
And shattered with a jerk.

From Ned Deily on Facebook yesterday, this vision of Bonomo Turkish Taffy, one of the vintage candies available at the (new) Hotel B Ice Cream Parlor on Main St. in Bethlehem PA (the place sells ice cream from the Penn State Creamery — yes, the commercial dairy division of Pennsylvania State Univ. in University Park PA):


Affectionate childhood memories of Turkish Taffy — I remember only the vanilla variety — hard and soft at the same time, pleasantly sweet and chewy. Its relationship to (salt-water) taffy was unclear to me (beyond their both being chewy candy), and I had no idea what made the stuff Turkish (the presumably Ottoman minaret on the package might just be imaginative marketing).

So: about the candy; about the name and its semantics; and a bonus bit about Bonomo’s Magic Clown (on tv when I was in my teens).

The candy. From Wikipedia:

Turkish Taffy was invented in 1912 by Austrian immigrant Herman Herer, who sold the rights to M. Schwarz & Sons of Newark, New Jersey, which were acquired in 1936 by Victor Bonomo, a Sephardic Jew whose father, Albert J. Bonomo, had emigrated from Izmir, Turkey and founded the Bonomo Company in Coney Island, New York in 1897 to produce saltwater taffy and hard candies.

According to Tico Bonomo, son of Victor, Turkish Taffy “was not really a taffy, but what is technically known as a short nougat,” consisting of a batter of corn syrup and egg whites that was cooked and then baked. It was also not Turkish, but created after World War II in the Bonomo factory. It has been marketed in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and banana flavors.

Turkish Taffy was originally sold in large sheets to Woolworth’s stores, where pieces were broken off with a ball-peen hammer at the counter and sold by weight. In the late 1940s the company released a version in candy-bar size which the purchaser could whack against a hard surface to break into bite-sized pieces. This property of being shattered or broken by sudden shock, but still pliable and soft when chewed is possible because the candy is a non-Newtonian fluid. Since the pieces were both chewy and slow-melting in the mouth, it was a favorite for the frugal customer. A bar still cost 5¢ in the 1960s. By that time, it was marketed by Gold Medal Candy Corporation of Brooklyn, New York.

In 1949 Turkish Taffy became one of the first forms of candy advertised and marketed on television, when Bonomo created and sponsored The Magic Clown on NBC Television. Tico Bonomo specifically cited the decision to use television as instrumental in the popularity of the candy-bar sized taffys.

In 1980 the candy became part of the Tootsie Roll Industries of Chicago line of candies, and it was discontinued in 1989.

(Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy then re-debuted 20 years later, in 2010. It’s now available in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, banana, blue raspberry, and wild cherry flavors.)

The semantics. Turkish Taffy is not taffy, and it’s not Turkish.

That is, first, Turkish Taffy is not subsective — but is instead (like Russian-olive, California lilac, vegetarian ham, soy milk, etc.) resembloid. Turkish Taffy merely has some of the characteristics of taffy. From NOAD:

noun taffyNorth American a candy similar to toffee, made from sugar or molasses, boiled with butter and pulled until glossy.

(Resembloid composites, both Adj + N and N + N, are a recurrent topic on this blog.)

Second, Turkish Taffy is not predicational — but is instead (like Swiss cheese, Swiss cheese not being Swiss) relational. Turkish Taffy isn’t Turkish (in the root sense of being from or of Turkey), but merely has some (metonymic) relationship, some association, with Turkey; in some way or another, it evokes Turkey. From my 7/17/18 posting “Chard semantics, chard art, and chard food””

My recent Swiss steak posting,”Braised short ribs with Swiss chard, and the Swiss Hotel” on the 15th, in considering Swiss chard as an ingredient in cooking, also looked at the semantics of the composite Swiss chard (it’s relational rather than predicational: Swiss chard isn’t Swiss, but instead is related to or associated with Switzerland in some way — but in what way?)

The association of Bonomo Turkish Taffy wth Turkey comes in two steps: the candy is associated with Victor Bonomo by virtue of his being its manufacturer, and Bonomo is associated with Turkey by virtue of his family descent. Bonomo was Turkish in the way that I’m Swiss, and then his candy was Turkish because it was made by someone Turkish — well, someone who thought of his roots in Turkey as being a significant fact about him (though Bonomo was American, as I am).

The clown. From Wikipedia:

The Magic Clown is an NBC TV series which ran from 1949 to 1954. The final NBC broadcast was on June 27, 1954. The show then moved to WABD [a DuMont station] where it stayed until 1958. After that, it was renamed Bonomo, The Magic Clown and was broadcast on WNTA [owned by National Telefilms Associates] from September 29, 1958 to July 24, 1959. The show was sponsored by Bonomo Turkish Taffy. Josh Norris, who used the stage name “Zovella”, was the first Magic Clown [there were several], and went on to a successful career as a full-time magician.

A screen capture from the show, with a Bonomo Turkish Taffy logo in the background:


Much as I liked Turkish Taffy, I detested clown shows for kids as a genre, and found this one especially creepy the couple of times I tried to watch it. So I have no lustrous childhood memories of it to regale you with.

2 Responses to “Taffy was a Turk”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    There is now a Page on this blog on “Resembloid composites”:

  2. [BLOG] Some Thursday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky considers the origins of the Turkish taffy of his […]

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