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Gingerbread Has Been A First Lady Tradition Since Martha Washington.

Many people are familiar with the gingerbread house at Christmas time, however, there are some delicious gingerbread bread, cake, bars, biscuit and cookie recipes that are perfect any time of the year.  Each year on June 5, gingerbread lovers across the nation observe National Gingerbread Day, a day that was created to bring attention to gingerbread.

  • The term “gingerbread” originally referred to preserved ginger, later referring to a confection made up of honey and spices. 
  • Gingerbread is a sweet food that typically uses honey or molasses rather than just sugar and is flavored with ginger. Gingerbread foods range from a soft, moist loaf cake to something closer to a ginger biscuit.
  • It is believed that gingerbread was first brought to Europe in 992 by an Armenian monk.  He lived there for seven years teaching gingerbread cooking to the French priests and Christians until his death in 999.
  • Sources indicate that in 1444, Swedish nuns were baking gingerbread to ease indigestion.
  • In the 17th century, gingerbread biscuits were sold in monasteries, pharmacies and town square farmers markets.   During the 18th century, gingerbread became widely available.
  • Ginger is a plant native to India and China which is prized throughout the world for its culinary and medicinal uses.
  • In the 16th century, Gingerbread was used to create news displays by pressing the rolled dough into carved wooden molds before baking.  It often showed the portrait of a new king, a religious symbol or some other important image.
  • Queen Elizabeth I is believed to be responsible for the first gingerbread man as she had them made to resemble visiting dignitaries and then presented them to the dignitaries as a gift.
  • English gingerbread is a dense, spice cake or bread that can include mustard, pepper, raisins, apples, or nuts.
  • At first, European gingerbreads where only made by Catholic monks, who usually created them in the form of angels and saints.
  • According to the Swedish tradition, you can make a wish, using gingerbread. First, put the gingerbread in your palm and then make a wish. You then have to break the gingerbread with your other hand. If the gingerbread brakes in to three, the wish will come true.
  • The gingerbread house became popular in Germany after the Brothers Grimm published their fariy tale collection which included “Hansel and Gretel” in the 19th century.
  • A doctor once wrote a prescription for gingerbreads for the Swedish King Hans, to cure his depression.
  • Unmarried women in England have been known to eat gingerbread “husbands” for luck in meeting the real thing.
  • 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.
  • Nuremburg, Germany has the title, “Gingerbread Capital of the World”.
  • Shakespeare appreciated the value of gingerbread, with a quote from his play, Love’s Labour’s Lost, saying: “An I had but one penny in the world, thou shouldst have it to buy ginger-bread.” 
  • In 2013, the Guinness World Records awarded a club in Texas for having the world’s largest gingerbread house. At approximately 18m x 13m x 3m (height), it’s big enough to comfortably house a family of five. For those of you interested, the house is a mere 35,823,400 calories.
  • You can actually have dinner inside a gingerbread house.  The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain in Tucson, Arizona, takes the hotel lobby gingerbread village a step further with this life-size gingerbread house that anyone can book for a private lunch or dinner during the holiday season. It ain’t cheap: Lunch will run you $250, while dinner will cost you $300. But you’ll get to say you had a lovely meal inside a structure made with 850 pounds of sugar. And no you’re not allowed to start munching on the walls at any point.
  • Gingerbread has been a first lady tradition since Martha Washington.   Mrs. Washington and, later, Dolley Madison both had fabled recipes for soft gingerbread cake, but it was Lou Hoover, who served as first lady from 1929 to 1933, who started using hard gingerbread as decoration for the White House Christmas tree, a tradition future first ladies continued.
  • The first gingerbread house wasn’t incorporated into White House decor, however, until the Nixon administration. Since then, gingerbread villages have grown into a White House Christmas tradition.


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