Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Gingerbread & Ginger

Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Gender: Masculine
Planet: Mars
Element: Fire
Powers: Love, money, success, power

Eating ginger before performing spells will lend them power, since you have been 'heated up' by the ginger.
Or perhaps at this time of the year what about eating gingerbread?

Gingerbread has been baked in Europe for centuries. In some places, it was a soft, delicately spiced cake; in others, a crisp, flat cookie, and in others, warm, thick, steamy-dark squares of "bread," sometimes served with a pitcher of lemon sauce or whipped cream. It was sometimes light, sometimes dark, sometimes sweet, sometimes spicy, but it was almost always cut into shapes such as men, women, stars or animals, and colorfully decorated or stamped with a mold and dusted with white sugar to make the impression visible.

The term may be imprecise because in Medieval England gingerbread meant simply "preserved ginger" and was a corruption of the Old French gingebras, derived from the Latin name of the spice, Zingebar. It was only in the fifteenth century that the term came to be applied to a kind of cake made with treacle and flavored with ginger.

Ginger was also discovered to have a preservative effect when added to pastries and bread, and this probably led to the development of recipes for ginger cakes, cookies, Australian gingernuts and flavored breads.

The manufacture of gingerbread appears to have spread throughout Western Europe at the end of the eleventh century, possibly introduced by crusaders returning from wars in the Eastern Mediterranean. From its very beginning gingerbread has been a fairground delicacy. Many fairs became known as "gingerbread fairs" and gingerbread items took on the alternative name in England of "fairings" which had the generic meaning of a gift given at, or brought from, a fair. Certain shapes were associated with different seasons: buttons and flowers were found at Easter fairs, and animals and birds were a feature in Autumn. There is also more than one village tradition in England requiring unmarried women to eat gingerbread "husbands" at the fair if they are to stand a good chance of meeting a real husband.

If you lived in London in 1614, your family would have gone to the Bartholomew Fair on August 24. Of the special cakes prepared for holidays and feasts in England, many were gingerbread. If a fair honored a town's patron saint, e.g., St. Bartholomew, the saint's image might have been stamped (and even gilded) into the gingerbread you would buy. If the fair were on a special market day, the cakes would probably be decorated with an edible icing to look like men, animals, valentine hearts or flowers. Sometimes the dough was simply cut into round "snaps."

Gingerbread-making was eventually recognized as a profession in itself. In the seventeenth century, gingerbread bakers had the exclusive right to make it, except at Christmas and Easter. Their street cries could be heard well into the nineteenth century, but in 1951, writer Henry Mayhew sadly recorded that "there are only two men in London who make their own gingerbread nuts for sale in the streets."

Of all the countries in Europe, Germany is the one with the longest and strongest tradition of flat, shaped gingerbreads. At every autumn fair in Germany, and in the surrounding lands where the Germanic influence is strong, there are rows of stalls filled with hundreds of gingerbread hearts, decorated with white and colored icing and tied with ribbons.

If you lived in Nuremberg in 1614, your family would have gone to the Christkindlmarkt in December. You would have bought carved Christmas decorations, special sausages, and the famous Nuremberg Lebkuchen flavored with ginger, which you probably would have thought was the best in the world. Nuremberg gingerbread was not baked in the home, but was the preserve of an exclusive Guild of master bakers, the Lebkuchler.

Lebkuchen are made throughout Germany and large pieces of lebkuchen are used to build Hexenhaeusle ("witches' houses," from the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, also called Lebkuchenhaeusel and Knusperhaeuschen—"houses for nibbling at").

Nuremberg merchants, in fact, were so well known for their spices that they had the nickname "pepper sacks." From early on, Nuremberg's Lebkuchen packed into one recipe all the variety of flavorings available to its bakers—cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, white pepper, anise and ginger.

The traditions in France were closer to the German than the English ones, with noteworthy recipes for pain d'epices coming from Dijon, Reims and Paris. In 1571, French bakers of pain d'epices even won the right to their own guild, or professional organization, separate from the other pastry cooks and bakers. In Paris a gingerbread fair was held from the eleventh century until the nineteenth century at an abbey on the site of the present St. Antoine Hospital, where monks sold gingerbread cut into the shape of pigs.

Tansy
x


Sources:
wwwiz.com
cunningham

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