Who doesn’t LOVE gingerbread? A gingerbread house can be anything from a castle to a small cabin, as depicted in THASC artist Melfred Teller’s decorative painting of his happy house in the mountains. The roof tiles usually consist of frosting (snow) or candy. His has both including peppermint stick window shutters. His yard is also decorated with sparkling icing, and candy even rises to the sky!
Gingerbread dates back to 11th century Europe when crusaders brought back the spice from the Middle East. Because it seemed to have preservative qualities, ginger was used to prolong shelf life in breads.
Some people believe that the actual gingerbread house is connected to the popular fairy tale started in the 1800’s in Germany called “Hansel and Gretel” by the Brothers Grimm in which a brother and sister, hungry and lost in a forest, find a gingerbread house and, after nibbling on the edible house, are caught by the witch who lived there. They finally escape and bake the witch who wanted first to bake them. After the book was published, the Germans are credited with bringing gingerbread to America and the tradition of making gingerbread houses in the United States began.
Gingerbread today contains ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom and is sweetened with a combination of molasses, brown sugar and honey. They are generally served around Christmas time. It should be noted that in England, the gingerbread biscuits, which commonly take the form of a gingerbread man, were first credited to Queen Elizabeth I, who had the gingerbread figures made into the images of important guests and dignitaries who came to her court.
Making gingerbread houses is still a way of celebrating Christmas in many families. Other sweets made with ginger survived in colonial North America and even today are called ginger snap cookies which you can still find on your grocer’s shelves.
THASC artist Melfred Teller has created a lovely greeting card which is sure to whet our appetite for sweets this holiday season. Even William Shakespeare in his “Love’s Labor’s Lost” says, “And I had but one penny in the world, thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.”
See you on Thursday.