Gingerbread. A word to stir in ceramic colored bowls of molasses memories atop kitchen counters at Christmastime. Frosted lips of little children upon their mother’s cheeks with imprints of white icing left behind. Warm cups of cocoa atop plastic tablecloths decorated with Santa. Mini mallows floating to the top. Treats of striped canes of sugar hanging to the sides waiting for Mama to test the temperature. Ahhh, just right!
Gingerbread houses have a distinct history behind the craft dating back to the 17th century when baking them became an acknowledged and esteemed profession. After the publication of Hansel and Gretel, the Grimm’s fairy tale in 1812, some of the first gingerbread houses were made in Germany at Christmastime. Not long afterward they became popular here in America. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gingerbread_house.
Late in November, the Grove Park Inn http://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/asheville-grove-park held an annual National Gingerbread Competition, http://www.romanticasheville.com/gingerbread.htm. It was simply by chance that I happened to stop and stroll through the hotel’s massive halls during the same week of the contest. How lucky to catch sight of the pure artistry that was on display. Gingerbread? I would have never guessed.
While stopping to view each entry, audible “Ooohs and Ahhhs” were heard inches to my right. Children and adults alike were taken in by their next sight. Each house had its own theme, its own story to tell and all one had to do was stop to see. “Look at me,” kids made of sprinkled sugar whispered quietly.
I lost count of the number of Gingerbread Houses entered into the competition. Nor did I know of all the rules with the exception that every piece was required to be edible. Gazing at the intricate details in construction, it was amazing. There were herds of candy cotton sheep, valleys of painted sugar snow, miniature acres of black licorice fencing and much more than I ever could have imagined. So tempting it was to snatch a chocolate shingle off of a roof or two!
At the end of the day, I wandered into the lobby to order a cup of hot chocolate from an adorable cottage decorated in red brick gingerbread fashion. To the left of a green gumdrop was a recipe card listing a vast quantity of baking ingredients. Such a surprise to learn that the sweet girl behind the counter was standing inside an actual house made of the same!
This coming weekend, I’ll be baking my own Gingerbread House where the oven will spill until it fills my home with scents of cinnamon and molasses and cloves. Luckily, the final baked confection won’t be entered into any competition. Yet, surely my little grandchildren will be delighted with my attempt at artistry.
Yes, there is a plastic table-cloth decorated with Santa where my family will gather round full of excitement. Christmas memories will be made of imprinted baby lips frosted upon my cheeks. Warm cups of cocoa will be served with mini mallows floating to the top, striped canes of sugar hanging to the sides. And, in the quiet of the night their mama will test the temperature.
Ahhh, just right.