Halva is a popular dessert with many claiming it as their own, from the Balkans to India. In Anatolia, the peninsula of land that today constitutes the Asian part of Turkey, halva has a social mission: it is shared with family and friends at joyous events such as weddings, births, circumcision ceremonies and religious celebrations. Traditionally, it is also served during Lent, at funerals and when someone leaves for hajj and is welcomed back home.
It was "semolina halva," also referred to as "funeral halva" or "veterans’ halva," that was the source of intense debate in my family. My mother, born in the Aegean town of Izmir, believed olive or almond oil should be used in the preparation of halva, while my dad, from the eastern town of Kharpout (Elazig), was adamant that semolina should be made with unsalted, high-quality butter.