Gingerbread Question

by Emily
(Music Land, Georgia, USA)

How did gingerbread houses and men come about?

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Dec 07, 2010
Gingerbread History
by: Carolyn Bowman

Gingerbread was baked in Europe for centuries. Sometimes it was a soft cake and sometimes a brittle cookie. It was sometimes light, sometimes dark, sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy, but almost always cut into shapes and carefully decorated or stamped with a mold and dusted with white sugar to make the impressions visible. The history of gingerbread is filled with traditions which we have made our own.
Picture yourself in Shakespeare’s day surrounded by the characters from Ben Johnson’s play, Bartholomew Fair. If you had lived in London in 1614 your family would have gone to the Bartholomew fair on August 24th. You might have gone to buy a winter’s worth of cloth, but the children would have pulled you to see the puppet show and begged you to let them see Lantern Leatherhead’s hobby horses and toys and scampered among the carts and trays of the noisy wondering coster-mongers looking for one special peddler. They would hear her cry: "Buy any Gingerbread
Guilt Gingerbread." There she was — Joan trash, the gingerbread woman! The children would run up to her, peek over the rim of her basket and their eyes would widen at what they saw; little gilded figures of men, women, animals, saints — especially many of St. Bartholomew, whose feast day the fair celebrated — all in gingerbread.
If you had been there a few minutes earlier you might have heard the hobbyhorse seller muttering that Joan Trash’s gingerbread was made with "stale bread, rotten eggs, musty ginger and dead honey.” If you lived in 1614 you would have known the recipe to be accurate but would have shrugged off the insult.
Of the special cakes prepared for holidays and feasts in England, many were gingerbread. If a fair honored a town’s patron saint, that saint’s image might have been stamped into the gingerbread you would buy. If the fair was a special market day, the cakes would probably be decorated with edible icing to look like men, animals, valentine hearts or flowers. Sometimes the dough was just cut into round “snaps”. Brown, gingery “fair buttons,” for example, were baked for the Easter Pleasure Fair in Norwich and the Easter and pre-Lenten Fair in nearby Great Yarmouth. Gingerbread wafers were eaten with cheese, sweets and spiced ale at the mid-September Barnstable Fair in Devonshire. Little cones and tubes made out of gingerbread were hawked in the streets of Nottingham during the great “goose fair”, when thousands of geese were driven into the town and people came from all over to choose a Christmas goose. *(summarized and taken directly from “American Pastimes: A Treasury of Old-Time Crafts and Ideas)
TheGinger Bread House most likely came after the Grims Brothers wrote "Hansel and Gretal" and Engleburt Humberdink put it to music.

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