Friday, December 12, 2008

Gingerbread Men, a Trio.

My recent brief (I would like to say ‘in-depth’) glance (I would like to say ‘analysis’) of my blog stats indicated that ‘gingerbread men’ is a popular search term at this time of the year. Looking at blog stats makes me nervous. As I said yesterday, I really have no idea what they mean, or what to do with them – but I feel that should do something with them. Respond? Give Googlers what they want?
I am going to give some of you what you seem to want, then I am going to desist from puzzling over search terms and so on, and return to choosing topics in a random fashion, or – of course, responding to you, my individual readers, when you have a particular query (Goldenrod Cake coming up soon, Anonymous!)
The only Gingerbread Men recipe in the Through the Ages with archive is from 1925. To make up the shortage, today I give you two American versions from 1915, and one wartime English version from 1944.
These simple recipes when compared give us quite a lot of trivia to puzzle over. ‘Brides’ in 1915 were clearly expected to make their own leaf-lard, and to know the difference between genuine buttermilk and non-genuine; boys in 1915 were not expected to cook (the book is clearly intended for girls, and it is clearly stated by one of the boy characters that ‘boys don’t cook’); molasses rules in the US, syrup in the UK; and does wartime ‘lemon substitute’ mean lemon essence?
Gingerbread Men.
 2 cups of molasses.
1 cup of equal parts of butter and lard, mixed.
1 level tablespoonful of ginger.
1 teaspoonful of soda.
Flour to mix very stiff.
Melt the butter, add the molasses and ginger, then the soda, dissolved in a teaspoonful of boiling water; stir in flour till the dough is so stiff you cannot stir it with a spoon; take it out on the floured board, and roll a little at a time, and with a knife cut out a man; press currants in for eyes and for buttons on his coat. Bake in a floured pan.
The Fun of Cooking: A Story for Boys and Girls. 1915
Ye Ancient Gingerbread [for gingerbread men]
One pint of sorghum molasses, one cup (genuine) sour buttermilk, one cup home-made leaf lard, one level tablespoon soda, three-quarters tablespoon ginger, one teaspoon each allspice, cinnamon, one-quarter teaspoon salt, two eggs, and Sperry [brand] flour to make a soft dough.
Mix lard and molasses, add beaten eggs, then add spice, salt and soda mixed with about one cup Sperry flour and alternate with the milk, beating all well together. Finally add flour enough to make a soft dough. Roll rather thick, cut in fantastic shapes, “little gingerbread men,” if to please the little folks, or any desired shape. Have a moderate heat only, as bread should not be baked too quickly.
The Bride’s Cookbook. Edgar William Briggs, California,1915
Gingerbread Men.
Ingredients: 2 oz. sugar or syrup, 2 oz. margarine, 8 oz. plain flour, ½ level teaspoon mixed spice, 2 level teaspoons ginger, lemon substitute, 1 level teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.
Method: Melt in a pan the syrup or sugar and margarine. Pour into a bowl. Add some flour and the spice and lemon substitute. Stir well. Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in a tablespoon of tepid water and add to the mixture. Continue stirring, gradually adding more flour. Finish the process by turning out the mixture on to a well-floured board. Knead in the remainder of the flour. Roll a small ball for the head, flatten it and place it on the baking tin. Roll an oblong for the body and strips for arms and legs. Join these together with a little reconstituted egg and put currants for the eyes.
Food Facts leaflet from the Ministry of Food in December 1944
Have fun.
P.S. The Vintage Christmas Recipes Archive has been updated, and more will be added this weekend.
Quotation for the Day …
Let me see if I've got this Santa business straight. You say he wears a beard, has no discernible source of income and flies to cities all over the world under cover of darkness? You sure this guy isn't laundering illegal drug money?
Tom Armstrong.


srhcb said...

For Christmas gift giving I often make both gingerbread cookies and carob biscuits, for dogs.

After baking they look remarkably similar, so I started to cut the gingerbread cookies with my bone-shaped dog biscuit cutters and the dog treats in the shapes of gingerbread people.

Why not?

The Old Foodie said...

Why not indeed? Do you remain stony-faced when the (human) recipients of your bone-shaped gingerbread biscuits look a bit concerned?

Anonymous said...

IF you want to post any images of half-eaten/dead Gingerbread Men, I'll publish them:

Thanks for the recipies.

srhcb said...

Sometimes I allow people to draw their own invariably wrong conclusions about the cookies/biscuits.

Actually, the carob dog biscuits aren't bad; rather like a bland biscotti, and I've never heard a dog complain about being forced to eat gingerbread.