Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gingerbread for Women.

Methinks it is time to wake up the Through the Ages with Gingerbread archive. A sudden increase in blog hits resulting from searches for “gingerbread” is as reliable a threat of the approach of Christmas as is the appearance of “merchandise” in the supermarket.

There are almost forty recipes already in the archive, covering a period from the fifteenth century to the present day, and many interpretations of the sweet spicy treat. There are wartime eggless and butterless austerity cakes and extravagant cakes fragrant with rosewater and marzipan, cakes with marshmallows, with cornmeal, with coconut, with breadcrumbs, and with all types of ginger. There is a recipe for travellers gingerbread and one to use up stale gingerbread. There are of course, recipes for gingerbread men and gingerbread houses.

It might be thought that there are no more gingerbreads to add, but that would be a mistake. Gingerbread is an inexhaustible subject. I was reminded of this when I recently downloaded the The Suffrage Cook Book, (1915) compiled by Mrs. L.O. Kleber and installed it on my e-Reader. It contains the following interestingly titled recipe:

Parliament Gingerbread
(With apologies to the English Suffragists)
½ lb. flour
½ lb. treacle
1 oz. butter
½ small spoon soda
1 dessert spoon ginger
1 dessert spoon mixed spices
½ cup sugar
A bit of hot water in which soda is dissolved.
Put flour in a basin, and rub in butter, and dry ingredients; then, soda and water; pour in treacle, and knead to smooth paste. Roll quite thin and cut in oblongs. Bake about ¼ hour.

The English suffragists (especially their militant arm, who were called ‘suffragettes’) were causing a great deal of national angst and parliamentary debate at the time, so perhaps that is the ‘Parliament’ connection.

‘Suffragist’ foods (‘Pie for a Suffragist’s Doubting Husband’, Angel Cake, and Salad Dressing), have appeared in previous stories on this blog, but the above recipe for what is obviously a gingerbread, got me intrigued. I also found the following recipe in Economical Cookery, by Marion Harris Neil (Boston, 1918).

Suffrage Gingerbread.
1 cup ( ¼ lb.) ground rice
2 cups ( ½ lb.) flour
1 cup ( 4 oz. whole wheat flour)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ginger
1 teaspoon mace
¾ cup (1 ½ gills) honey or molasss
½ cup (1 gill) milk or cream
1 egg, beaten
1 cup (4 oz.) ground almonds
1 cup ( ½ lb. butter substitute
1 lemon
½ teaspoon salt.
Into a bowl sift rice, flours, baking powder, and spices. Melt molasses, add milk and butter substitute, and when dissolved, pour amongst flours; add grated lemon rind, egg, and salt. Pour into a greased and floured flat tin and bake in a moderate oven 45 minutes. Turn out and cool and cut into slices. If liked, the gingerbread may be frosted before it is cut.

I don’t know what it was about the suffragists and gingerbread, if indeed there was a specific connection (perhaps the quotation below is a clue). Ginger is one of the most widely used spices in the world, so for what it is worth, I dedicate this post to all the women around the globe who still do not have equality in the eyes of their families, or in the religious, cultural, or national communities in which they live.

Quotation for the Day.

The radiance which this new light [the woman suffrage movement] must bring into many households may be allowed to counterbalance some falling off in the manner of gingerbread and doughnuts.
Julia Ward Howe, American social activist (1819-1910).


Shay said...

Mrs. Kleber's book is available on-line at Project Gutenberg.

(How much is "a bit" of water to dissolve the soda, I wonder?).

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Shay - I think " bit" would be a very tiny bit - a couple of teaspoons?
I think I did get Kleber's book from Gutenberg, but the other sites I like are the Internet Archive,Manybooks and Feedbooks. I love being able to carry them around on my lovely eReader though rather than read them on the computer screen.
Dont you love the Internets?

The Old Foodie said...

Ha1 ha! Silly me - I thought something was a bit amiss;I meant to post this "tomorrow" - Monday the 26th. Looks like I put the wrong date into the schedule at Blogger!

Shay said...

Yes, I love me da Internets! I could spend the rest of my life on sites like Gutenberg.

Anonymous said...

You also left out one of the ingredients - there's two cups of something (I'm guessing white flour).


The Old Foodie said...

Oh Dear Sandra - that is the second time recently that I have done that. All fixed. Memo to self: proof read more carefully!