Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Gingerbread Night.

Today is (or was) Guy Fawkes’ Night when Britons used to celebrate the failed plot to blow up the houses of Parliament in 1605 with bonfires and fireworks – and toffee apples and gingerbread. Most of the fun is now neutered or forbidden due to fire and safety regulations, but there is still gingerbread. The most traditional type of gingerbread on the day is called ‘parkin’ – and I have covered this in previous posts (here, and here,) so today I want to look at a different motivation for eating the stuff – medicinal reasons.

I have, in fact, given a recipe for Medicated Gingerbread in the past, but there is more on the theme!

Gingerbread for Delicate People.
One pound of oatmeal, one half of a pound of flour, one-half pound of butter, one-half pound of sugar (moist) one-half pound of treacle. The three last-named ingredients must be put in a pan and left to boil a few minutes taking care they do not burn: pour the mixture over the flour and meal and mix very well together, adding a good deal of ginger. It is the best plan not [to] bake it until the following day as it gives the meal time to swell. Roll it out the thickness of your finger and cut it in lengths, and bake in a slow oven. It must be kept in a tin box.
Queanbeyan Times (NSW) 3 December 1884.

I have no idea why that recipe would serve for those who are 'delicate' – it is not essentially any different from any other gingerbread recipe.

Dyspeptic Gingerbread.
Two pounds and a half of unbolted flour.
Half a pound of butter
One table-spoonful of ginger.
One teaspoonful of allspice and cloves, mixed.
One table-spoonful of saleratus.
Mix all the ingredients with as much molasses as will make it into a dough. Knead it well, then roll in thin sheets, and cut with a round cutter. Place them on buttered tins, then wash them over with thin molasses and water and bake in a moderate oven.
Widdifield's New Cook Book: Or, Practical Receipts for the House-wife

Again, I don’t know why this gingerbread is specifically for dyspeptics.

The following comment on the physiological effects of a certain style of gingerbread is appropriate for our theme, but I do hope it does not put you off eating it!

Gingerbread Aperient.  Gingerbread, made with oatmeal or with barley flour, is a very agreeable aperient for children. Beware of giving children medicines too frequently.

Enquire Within Upon Everything (1869) by Robert Kemp Philp


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the oats and/or unbolted flour have a laxative effect? I guess it depends on what they mean by "dyspeptics."

Maureen said...

I had to look up saleratus. Who knew it was what was used before baking soda but you? :) I love gingerbread and I don't think I'm dyspeptic either.