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Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:00 PM

Gingerbread houses - why?

The gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel is designed to trap unwary children, so how did it become a Christmas icon? Is this really a German thing brought to America, or is it descended from a how-to article in a women's magazine c 1923?

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Reply Gingerbread houses - why? (Original post)
hedgehog Dec 2015 OP
MineralMan Dec 2015 #1
hedgehog Dec 2015 #2
cali Dec 2015 #3
RobinA Dec 2015 #4
hedgehog Dec 2015 #5
RobinA Dec 2015 #19
enlightenment Dec 2015 #7
madinmaryland Dec 2015 #13
Warpy Dec 2015 #6
haele Dec 2015 #8
Warpy Dec 2015 #9
cyberswede Dec 2015 #10
smirkymonkey Dec 2015 #11
Person 2713 Dec 2015 #14
Denzil_DC Dec 2015 #15
DashOneBravo Dec 2015 #34
Denzil_DC Dec 2015 #36
DawgHouse Dec 2015 #33
Warren DeMontague Dec 2015 #12
JVS Dec 2015 #28
Warren DeMontague Dec 2015 #35
Arugula Latte Dec 2015 #40
CBGLuthier Dec 2015 #16
Rex Dec 2015 #17
hedgehog Dec 2015 #18
Stinky The Clown Dec 2015 #20
yellowcanine Dec 2015 #21
KamaAina Dec 2015 #22
csziggy Dec 2015 #23
MohRokTah Dec 2015 #24
hedgehog Dec 2015 #25
pnwmom Dec 2015 #31
DonCoquixote Dec 2015 #26
cwydro Dec 2015 #27
MisterP Dec 2015 #29
lumberjack_jeff Dec 2015 #30
Katashi_itto Dec 2015 #32
Arugula Latte Dec 2015 #41
Texasgal Dec 2015 #37
hedgehog Dec 2015 #38
librechik Dec 2015 #39

Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:02 PM

1. Hmm...you may be overthinking this.

I suppose that Hansel and Gretel was written based on gingerbread houses being commonplace and attractive to children, rather than the converse. I don't know for sure, though.

ETA: With a little research, it seems that I am incorrect, and that the popularity of gingerbread houses postdates the Brothers Grimm. I'm a little surprised at that, though, and suspect that people were making them before they wrote their fairy tale.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:13 PM

2. Must have been the rich folks - it's really a waste of good gingerbread if you ask me!

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Response to hedgehog (Reply #2)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:15 PM

3. It's fun to do. And kids love doing it

 

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Response to hedgehog (Reply #2)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:16 PM

4. I'm Not Rich

And I've made several. They're fun one you get to the decorating part.

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Response to RobinA (Reply #4)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:17 PM

5. i should have said the rich folk back in the 17th century - sugar and ginger are

a lot cheaper these days.

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Response to hedgehog (Reply #5)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 12:25 PM

19. That I'll Buy

I think of the olden days every time I brush a few grains of salt onto the floor. Weird.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:20 PM

7. I agree - it most likely predates

the story.

People were making decorated "houses" from cakes and sugars centuries before the Brothers Grimm, and making molded ginger shapes earlier than the 16th century.

Much more likely that the Grimm's just used an existing motif and the popularity grew from the story . . . which does make you wonder what the heck people were thinking of the houses AFTER the story became popular.

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Response to MineralMan (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 07:26 PM

13. Heh! It's DU:GD where we tend to overthink things and make mountains out of molehills!!





But is interesting to learn a little bit of history!!

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:18 PM

6. They're European

and either started in the kitchens of the aristocracy or in shop windows. They were picked up because grain and molasses based decorations were relatively cheap. They were also unlikely to have been as elaborate as the ones produced in ordinary kitchens now.

As to the Brothers Grimm, they were writing down folk tales that had existed for centuries, devised during a time when danger and death were constant companions and most kids didn't live past their 5th birthday. The gingerbread house with the cannibalistic witch in it was a nice thing for hungry children. The witch was defeated, you know, and only ate bratty kids who tried to eat her house.

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:24 PM

8. Gingerbread houses are part of a tradition of edible table displays at feasts.

Records of displays of animals, cities, landscapes, houses, and characters or scenes from common folklore have been about for several millennia across the world.
A common feast display in most households that weren't fantastically wealthy was some type of attractive manor house landscape made of cookie-like dough (to handle being carried from the kitchen area that was usually outside into where people were feasting) and some sort of edible paste or jam-gummy type decoration holding it together with decorated dried fruit or other confections. It would sit in the center of the "high table" for the last part of the feast, then be nibbled on as some form of after-gorging digestive aid (gingerbread at that time was made from a mixture of treacle, dried birch root, crystalized citrus peel, ginger, anise, cloves, and pepper and a malted barley flour). There was often filling of fruit and cream or soft herbed or otherwise flavored cheeses in the house.

About two decades I built a small village display for a medieval-themed banquet using a 14th century recipe. The "gingerbread" I used for the houses ended up rather like a crumbly chewy cookie, and using a somewhat malted barley flour (barley flour mixed with brewer's yeast and malt - the best taste with that recipe) gave it a very hard shell that was difficult to slice through unless you chilled the baked gingerbread sheets.

Haele

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Response to haele (Reply #8)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:48 PM

9. Ruth Goodman over at the BBC (on You Tube) has a "farm" series going

and it seems a marzipan centerpiece had been an Xmas thing for a very long time, even in ordinary farm houses, usually in the form of one of the animals. A transition to a gingerbread house would have taken place as spices became cheaper and more available as the Empires were established.

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Response to haele (Reply #8)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:53 PM

10. I like this example of an edible table display



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Response to cyberswede (Reply #10)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 04:58 PM

11. A Choucroute Creche?

LOL!

That is hysterical! You have to give the person credit for creativity!

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Response to cyberswede (Reply #10)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 12:10 AM

14. Nice !

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Response to cyberswede (Reply #10)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 12:37 AM

15. I don't have a historical leg to stand on,

but my theory is that bakers in Germany in the early 1800s turned to gingerbread because there was a severe shortage of bacon.







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Response to Denzil_DC (Reply #15)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 09:37 PM

34. What's the second one made from?

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Response to DashOneBravo (Reply #34)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 10:41 PM

36. Latticed bacon and kabanosy, by the look of it. n/t

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Response to cyberswede (Reply #10)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 08:39 PM

33. Very clever!

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Wed Dec 16, 2015, 05:14 PM

12. If they didn't want the witch to eat Hansel and Gretel, they shouldn't have made them so plump and

tasty-looking.



Come on. She lives in a candy house. She obviously needs some protein.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #12)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 04:36 PM

28. Hansel and Gretel were not plump.

Their parents were poor and on the brink of starvation. The mother told the father to take their last piece of bread, give it to the kids, walk them out deep into the woods where they wouldn't be able to figure out the way home. The father was reluctant but did as she said. Fortunately after they escaped from the witch they found their way home and were happily reunited with their father. The mother had died in the meantime.

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Response to JVS (Reply #28)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 10:32 PM

35. Ah, well, far be it for me to misrepresent the historical accuracy of yon fairy tale.

They were plump in the Bugs Bunny Version, that's all I know.

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Response to Warren DeMontague (Reply #12)

Fri Dec 18, 2015, 01:55 PM

40. Oh, sure, you're an evil atheist -- no wonder you are in favor of baby eatin'!

 

Figures!

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 01:28 AM

16. I watched a really good documentary the other day on DW (English language German Channel)

Some of the things they create are incredible

You can watch it online

http://www.dw.com/en/documentaries-and-reports-gingerbread-journeys-2015-12-10/e-18858984-9798

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 01:32 AM

17. I think that is a Grimm Brothers tale which were always grusome.

 

They had gore and people dying horribly. Disney kinda cleaned up the fairytale genre. It's been bleached of the original meaning.

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Response to Rex (Reply #17)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 11:06 AM

18. IIRC, the fairy tales were for adults, not children

Even at that - being abandoned in the forest is pretty gruesome nomatter how you cut it!

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 12:30 PM

20. ohferkrissakes

more anti Christmas Season crap.

Stop it.

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 12:53 PM

21. The witch gave shelter and food to a couple of lost kids and look where it got her....

Sheesh!

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 12:54 PM

22. So the Gingerbread Man won't be homeless?

 

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 01:05 PM

24. Why? Because they are FUN! eom

 

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Response to MohRokTah (Reply #24)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 03:05 PM

25. I must confess - cookies, rolls, breads and fruitcake I can do

make a gingerbread house - not happening unless I want to post a Nailed it! photo.

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Response to MohRokTah (Reply #24)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 08:04 PM

31. Ding ding ding!

Finally, the correct answer.

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 03:52 PM

26. supposedly

The ginger in the gingerbread made it less likely to rot, and this was an attempt to heave a whole lot of gingerbread to last a nasty, long winter. They were also sold by Monasteries.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gingerbread_house
http://blog.wilton.com/index.php/tracing-the-origins-of-the-gingerbread-house/
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-brief-history-of-gingerbread-50050265/?no-ist

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 04:09 PM

27. Oh dear.

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 07:59 PM

29. more careless cultural appropriation from Germany

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 08:03 PM

30. Because cool. And edible. That's why. n/t

 

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 08:38 PM

32. Gingerbread houses. MORE OF A THREAT THAN CLIMATE CHANGE

 

YOU WERE WARNED!

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Response to Katashi_itto (Reply #32)

Fri Dec 18, 2015, 01:59 PM

41. Is ISIS planning on destroying our country through our spiced pastry miniature residences?!

 

...Sean will get to the bottom of it on the next Hannity!

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Thu Dec 17, 2015, 10:45 PM

37. Gah!

Who cares?

If you are interested in history, google has a bunch of links.

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Response to Texasgal (Reply #37)

Fri Dec 18, 2015, 11:20 AM

38. But it's more fun to talk to people and get all the opinions,

even if Stinky thinks I'm a Scrooge! (not really, just bad at craft projects!)

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Response to hedgehog (Original post)

Fri Dec 18, 2015, 12:32 PM

39. baking process distracts kids from tv for a few secs (from the oven, as it were, lol)

gingerbread houses do refer in several ways to the unspeakable sacrificial rituals of paganism. So yeah, horrifying.

And they are pretty yucky, unless done by experts.

But forget all about that: aren't they cute?

http://www.thenewscenter.tv/content/news/Gingerbread-houses-are-on-display-362864011.html

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