December 5, 2012Owensville High School
“Run, run as fast as you can; you can’t catch me—I’m the gingerbread man!”
Obviously, all of us should be familiar with the above phrase—as well as all of the gingerbread houses and cookies involved with the holidays. However, where did all of the festivities surrounding the gingerbread cookies originate from?
To begin, gingerbread is a term used to describe a variety of “sweet food products,” ranging from “soft, moist loaf cake to something close to a ginger biscuit.” However, what all of these pastries have in common is simply the “predominant” flavors of ginger, along with the use of honey and molasses as a sweetener instead of just sugar.
Gingerbread was introduced into Europe in 992 by an Armenian monk named Gregory Makar; he taught “gingerbread cooking” to French priests and Christians. In the 13th century, gingerbread was brought to Sweden by German immigrants; records show that Swedish nuns were baking gingerbread to “ease indigestion” in 1444. The first “documented trade” of gingerbread biscuits dates back to the 16th century, where they were sold in “monasteries, pharmacies, and town square farmers’ markets.” One hundred years after that, the town ofMarket Drayton inShropshire,UK became known for its gingerbread, “as was proudly displayed on their town’s welcoming sign.” Moreover, the first mention of gingerbread being baked in the town dates back to 1793; however, historians speculate that it was probably being baked in that particular location in the 1640s or earlier.
To conclude, many countries have developed a different style and manner in which they make their gingerbread in the past few hundred years, but it is the harder, “German-style” gingerbread that most are now familiar with because it is made in the creation of the festive gingerbread houses and cookies that all of us unconsciously associate with Christmas.