Sometimes you come across a dessert with endless fun angles – this is certainly the case with the much-loved gingerbread. This sweet treat commonly takes the form of cakes, bars, and cookies in the shape of little people. But at Christmas time, in the form of a house with snowy decorations, this is when the gingerbread visits us on a pedestal. Get those napkins ready, because we’re about to explore the wonderful world of gingerbread history. It includes nursery rhymes, museums in medieval towns, and an Armenian monk named Greg.
Let’s begin with this unlikely hero, Gregory Makar, also known as Grégoire de Nicopolis. It was this brave monk who decided to leave Greece and relocate to France where he spent seven years sharing the fine art of gingerbread baking prior to his death in 999. This is the first reference to gingerbread in history, cakes, and cookies, even before mentions of the Vadstena Abbey and its Swedish nuns who used to bake them in the 13th-century to ease digestive troubles and decorate windows.
This isn’t a far cry from modern-day uses of the ginger cookies we decorate with various outfits and facial expressions. They may not, however, last long enough to hang from windows; especially if you hand them to a child and recite the classic gingerbread man nursery rhyme. The story is quite impressive if you haven’t read it in a while. The gingerbread man actually jumps out of the pan and runs away from a woman who made him nice and sweet for her husband to eat as a treat. He runs from not only a neighbouring farmer, but his cow, his horse, his farm dog, and even his hog! Who knows who else the gingerbread man would have outrun if the clever fox hadn’t shown up.
The prize for the best use of the gingerbread must go to the beautiful medieval town of Toruń, Poland. They are home to a traditional gingerbread museum. We know. The country that gave the world the pączki is also responsible for a gingerbread museum! Visitors to the museum are typically treated to demonstrations. These involve traditional baking techniques guided by the Gingerbread Master and the Gingerbread Witch!
That’s it for gingerbread history, quite amazing wasn’t it? If June 5th brings National Gingerbread Day every year, imagine the celebrations at the gingerbread museum. If you can’t make your way to Toruń for the festivities, you could certainly celebrate at home with a nice gingerbread loaf, or perhaps some ginger snaps… Maybe even a mid-year gingerbread house with summer garden icing instead of snow?