One thing I remember from my early years, is the gingerbread at holiday time.
I especially liked the gingerbread men. I think there were probably some gingerbread women as well...but I don't remember the gender of the cookies being of any particular importance at the time!
I think we were mostly taken by the various ways in which they were decorated. Raisins for buttons, icing for eyes, whatever the whim of the decorator was at the time! It was beautiful, it was creative, it was delicious!
We didn't have very many gingerbread houses around at the holidays...I'm not sure why. I believe that with all the cooking, the wrapping, the decorating, and all the general chaos of the moment...they were not practical, but that's just my guess.
The point is, you don't see much gingerbread any more. In a way, that's surprising. Gingerbread has a very long and interesting history, just loaded with tradition. Here's a small bit of history of gingerbread that you might enjoy!
The Story of Gingerbread
Most early immigrants to North America came from Europe, therefore most customs are from European origin.
Gingerbread is traced to Europe back to the 11th century. Crusader returning from the Middle East and brought back among other items a spice -- ginger. Soon after, different varieties of gingerbread appeared throughout western Europe. The variations varied widely from sweet, dark, spicy, soft or crusty, the only common characteristic was the ginger spice.
Gingerbread, the name comes from the Latin word "Zingebar", and was not used until the 15th century. By that time, gingerbread gained great popularity, especially in Germany and France. Bakers in both countries formed their own guilds, which gave them exclusive rights to make and sell the bread. However, a law was formed which prohibits them to produce gingerbread at Eastern and Christmas ("Government Red Tape" was well established). This law was eliminated in the 16th century, because of the popularity and favorite attraction of Gingerbread Bakers at market places, were gingerbread was freshly baked. Gingerbread gained such popularity at the already famous "Christkindlesmarket", in Nuremberg, Germany, that it was called the "Gingerbread Capital of the World".
The first gingerbread houses were made in Germany. Children story writer, Brothers Grimm, made them famous in the very popular fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel". The story featured a gingerbread house, which was called "Hexenhäuschen", (Witch House. The story goes, ...in which two lost children came upon and nibbled on the sweet gingerbread house, the evil witch caught and imprisoned them).
Now that I've shared that little bit of culinary history and added to the copious amount of almost useless information you're used to finding here...I wonder if I could get someone out there to do me a really big favor?
Would it be asking too much for someone, ANYONE...to get me a gingerbread cookie? Man, I sure would appreciate it a lot!
Now then! What say you and I get some fresh coffee and sit at the kitchen table for a while! Too cold to sit outside in the rain, ya know?