Jacks Gingerbread House!
The History of the Gingerbread House
No confection symbolises the festive season quite like gingerbread.
Ginger first came from ancient China as a medical treatment and then spread to Europe via the Silk Road. During the Middle Ages it was favoured as a spice to disguise the taste of preserved meats. Yuk! Henry VIII used ginger as a resistance to the plague. How did that work for you then Henry?
However, today we still use ginger as an effective remedy for an upset tummy. Now that’s more like it! The first known recipe for gingerbread came from Greece in 2400 BC.
Europeans however, had their own very glamourous version of gingerbread. Cookies, gilded with gold leaf and shaped like animals and kings and queens, were a regular at Medieval fairs in England, France, Holland and Germany. Queen Elizabeth I had some made to resemble the dignitaries visiting her court. Over time some of these festivals came to be known as Gingerbread Fairs, becoming more and more elaborately decorated and synonymous with all things fancy and elegant in England.
Some Ginger Traditions
Gingerbread was the ultimate (edible) token of luck and love. In the middle ages, ladies would gift their favourite knights a piece of gingerbread for good luck.
Folk medicine practitioners would create gingerbread men for young women to help them capture the man of their dreams. If she could get him to eat it, then it was believed he would fall madly in love with her.
For those wanting to cut the middlemen out altogether, ladies could eat a gingerbread husband themselves to help them snag the real thing. Oh right. So, Ginger preceded Tinder then?
Some of the earliest forms of gingerbread didn’t even contain ginger and were not necessarily bread. According to Dessert Historian Michael Krondl (I want his job!), they were essentially honey cakes. It is claimed that ancient Roman men ate anatomically-correct renditions of these before meeting a lady friend for the evening – if you get my drift!
I would very much love to include a picture of this, but fear that typing the search terms “anatomically correct honey cakes” would raise a red flag for the IT and HR departments. So, here’s the following image instead (Note to HR: search terms used were “naked gingerbread”. Wait, is that worse?)
Gingerbread houses originated in Germany during the 16th century. Elaborate cookie-walled houses, decorated with gold and silver leaf, became associated with Christmas tradition. Popularity of gingerbread houses rocketed when the Brothers Grimm wrote the story of Hansel and Gretel who stumbled across a house made entirely of ginger and sweets deep in the forest. Umm, building on the green belt wouldn’t be allowed today, I’m sure!
The record for world’s largest gingerbread house, was erected at Traditions Golf Club in Bryan, Texas ……. Of course! The 40,000 cubic foot house required a building permit and was built with 4,000 gingerbread bricks. Over a ton of butter and 1,080 ounces of ground ginger were needed.
The house was of course edible. Although, beware to those on a new- years diet, the ingredients and sweets meant the construction contained 35,823,400 calories! Might need to carry on with that little old diet into February I think!!
Our fab gingerbread house was baked and assembled by our lovely, super talented and creative, Alis Anipai. It’s entirely edible except the lights (just thought I’d point that out). Please take a close look at the amazing details that Alis has included, but please don’t touch. We absolutely love it and hope you do as well.
Thank you Alis the clever ginger (she’s blonde) star!