Eating this heavenly candy was accomplished by a ritual unknown to today's candy lovers. First you checked the package to make sure it wasn't too soft to move on to the next step. It had to be hard. Then you lifted the candy bar and smashed it on the pavement or on any hard surface. Then you carefully opened it to see the dozen or so shards that it had broken into. We're not making this up, and here's a video to prove it.
Sadly, Bonomo's Turkish Taffy disappeared from the market in 1989, after undergoing a packaging change, a naming change from Bonomo's to Bonomo, and sale to the Tootsie Roll company.
The history of the candy was outlined in an obituary of Victor Bonomo, son of Alfred, the Turkish Jew in whose Coney Island factory the candy was created. Victor died in 1999 at the age of 100, and as Michael T. Kaufman wrote in The New York Times,
The candy, which first appeared as a nickel bar after World War II, became a favorite with the economy-minded. Unlike some of its competitors, which melted in your mouth, Turkish Taffy eroded slowly, and it was so chewy that a single bar could last through most of a double feature at the movies.Eventually it made its way into individual candy bars and onto the shelf of Arthur's candy store. Then we had to grow up, move away from Washington Heights, and never saw the candy again.
Mr. Bonomo (pronounced BAHN-uh-moh) was born into the candy business and actually had Turkish roots. His father, Albert J., was a Sephardic Jew who had emigrated from Turkey. In 1897, the year before Victor Bonomo was born, his father started making candy in Coney Island to supply concessions at the amusement park. After World War I, Victor joined his father in running the candy factory on Eighth Street in Coney Island, where saltwater taffy and hard candies were produced.
As World War II ended, sugar rationing gave way and the entire country was eager to indulge its sweet tooth. Bonomo's joined the race to satisfy the surging demand, promoting three candy bars, ''Thanks,'' ''Hats Off'' and ''Call Again,'' which Tico Bonomo, Victor's son, described as ''poor man's Milky Ways.''
Then the candy cooks at the Coney Island factory came up with a batter of corn syrup and egg whites that was cooked and then baked.
''It was not really a taffy but what is technically known as a short nougat,'' explained Tico Bonomo. Nor was it Turkish. ''It was not a family recipe and the name we chose, 'Turkish Taffy,' just reflected clever marketing,'' he said.
It cooled into sheets the size of school desks, which were distributed through Woolworth stores around the country. Clerks at the candy counters used ball-peen hammers to whack the sheets, breaking off shards that were sold by the pound.
But last week we saw the amazing announcement. Great news! Bonomo's Turkish Taffy is back, and this time with an OU-Dairy certification for the chocolate, vanilla, and banana flavors. (Who knows what certification, if any, it had back in the day when everybody assumed if was candy, it had to be kosher!)
We haven't seen it in any supermarkets yet and we haven't checked the few candy stores remaining in the suburbs, but you can buy this nostalgic treat online for about $20 for a case of 24 candy bars, at Old Time Candy or at Groovy Candies. They also sell individual bars for about $1 apiece, and other candy that you won't find at your local store, like B-B Bats, Bit-O-Honey, Sky Bar and many more. Enjoy!
(This blog post is dedicated to the Washington Heights Bonomo Boys: Murva Regrebsiew, Namlak Dlawniehcs, Dranreb Ykswoktam, Dranreb Namrebeil, and Sirrom Namssorg a"h)