The hors d’oeuvre offerings were lined up. A multitude of dishes covered the busy party buffet table. Hands reached into the bowls grabbing fruit, pretzels, peanuts, cheeses, veggies, dips, crackers, and chips. But there was one dish that looked somewhat lonely, ignored and virtually untouched by the guests. A dish that sat in one corner of the table, filled with strange looking cut up grayish white cubes of something that looked a little foreign, yet a bit familiar at the same time.
I couldn’t resist. A casual nibble was all I needed to remember a taste from the past. Joyva Halvah. One gentle bite brought back memories of my Grandmother who decades ago had Halvah on her elaborate dining room table. One taste also reminded me of my Aunt and Uncle who would serve pieces of this confection treat to the family when we arrived for her holiday feasts.
It has been quite awhile since I tasted Joyva Halvah and realized I’ve really missed this delicacy. It is said that Halvah is one of the world’s oldest candies. An historic Turkish delight made by the family owned Brooklyn-based, Joyva Corporation.
The history to Joyva Halvah is fascinating. The first batch was made on New York’s Lower East Side back in 1907 from a recipe brought over from a Russia Jewish gentleman named Nathan Radutzky. So what exactly is Halvah? It’s a combination of tahini (ground up sesame seeds and sugar) and is supposed to be rich in protein, calcium, zinc, iron and B complex vitamins and more. Sounds like a healthy, energy bar until you read the high fat, high calorie nutrition label which obviously wasn’t around during my Grandmother’s “eat all you want” serving days.
Joyva Halvah is gluten-free and is certified kosher by Kof-K Kosher Supervision as kosher parve. Halvah comes in different varieties. I had the plain with pistachio nuts added in. You can choose from plain, pure Joyva Halvah or plain with chocolate as well as a mixed nuts version.
Joyva Halvah’s history includes some clever marketing: during the depression, putting Halvah on a slice of bread was considered a healthy, nutritious and affordable lunch for the hungry. Looking for an innovative mid-eastern look, the Joyva Company commissioned an artist to design a logo/trademark consisting of a sultan wearing a
turban and sporting a moustache. The distinctive logo is still used today. Marketing endorsements of Joyva’s Halvah by famed comedians Jimmy (the nose) Durante and Henny (take my wife, please) Youngman created national exposure, distribution and product excitement.
The problem today is finding it. I looked for Joyva Halvah in local delis and neighborhood candy stores (which are also hard to find nowadays). But thanks to the Internet, you can easily order it.
If you haven’t tried Halvah, try it. You’ll like it. Bet you can’t eat just one. Bet you’ll be hooked on Halvah forever.