When I was a wee lass, one of the best parts of the Yuletide season—apart from watching my folks sweep up the remnants of shattered tree ornaments when the cat knocked down the old Tannenbaum for the fourth time in a month—was building a gingerbread house.
Gingerbread houses are like that computer game, SIMS, where you build a fake family a fake house with a fake garage and fake lives, except unlike my computer-simulated SIMS family, I will eat the ginger family without an ounce of remorse or hesitation.
But where did these delectable, often stale, and underwhelming holiday snack shacks originate from? A Christian monk is to blame, believe it or no. (I guess even holy men get a break from that whole no-gluttony at Christmas rule.)
In the great and holy year of 992, an Armenian monk by the name of Gregory Makar moved to Paris and taught gingerbread cooking to French priests and Christians until his death in 999. It was brought to Sweden in the 13th century by Germans, and eventually it made it across the pond to Shropshire, UK.
It’s important to note that all of these people had yet to say to themselves, “You know what’s better than a spicy, crispy bread-cookie? A house made out of it. With a lot of crap on top of it.”
That divine intervention came much, much later (a time scholars argue about to this day), but we do know that it was one of humanity’s crowning achievements right up there with the moon walk, the invention of the Internet, Teen Mom season II, and Brad Pitt’s secret fountain of youth.
And while I’m not one to call out others for their lack of gingerbread enthusiasm (ahem, come on America, gingerbread kits, really?), I will say that since 1991, the people of Bergen, Norway, have had their heads in the game. Every year at Christmastime, the town comes together to build the largest ginger city in the world. It’s free for kids (12 and younger) to build a house with the help of their parents.
So, really, we’re kind of the moldy, black-cookie sheep of the gingerbread neighborhood.
Yeah, you can go out to Trader Joe’s and pick up a $15 kit, but where’s the imagination in that? Of course the house will be seismically stable and you won’t have to fish through the old Halloween candy for DumDum hedges, but there’s no ginger-mystery in that.
I am going to humbly suggest that you bake yourself up some delicious ginger bread, whip up some hard frosting, and tell the kids that they need to sacrifice a Reece’s cup so that Mr. and Mrs. Bread can have that chocolate Jacuzzi they always dreamed of buying upon retirement from ginger dentistry (feel free to role play here).
There are plenty of recipes online to help you out in the baking process (allrecipes.com has a good one), but I recommend you go full-tilt Gonzo on the decoration. Kill your idols, man; even if your idols are just a couple of cookie people. ∆
Calendar Editor Maeva Considine will gladly eat your gingerbread house. Send it to her at email@example.com.