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The VIC Pictorial: Do YOU smell gingerbread?
December 14, 2010

Issue #70 - "Mmmm, I'm smelling gingerbread!" That is a direct quote from Celeste of Munnsville, NY. She wrote to us after last week's VIC Pictorial newsletter where we dropped the gingerbread hint.

Right she was. Today, we have literal gingerbread, illustrated gingerbread, historical gingerbread and competitive gingerbread. Celeste has more to say later about the literal gingerbread.

This Special Edition of The VIC Pictorial is fresh out of the oven with:

  • A FREE Victorian Santa image with his gifts of fruit, nuts and gingerbread!
  • Extreme gingerbread houses in sticky competition.
  • Gingerbread that William Wordsworth would have loved (and may have) from Sarah Nelson's Grasmere Gingerbread.
  • A simple gingerbread recipe (to quote Celeste) "to die for."
Let's get crafting...

FREE Victorian Santa
Bearing Gingerbread!

Santa bearing gingerbread vintage image


If that link doesn't work for you (it is a very large file, so it might take a minute or two), you can try this alternate link:

Gingerbread. A bread containing ginger and other spices, usually sweetened with molasses. Just like Santa, it shows up at Christmastime all around the world. In Germany, it is called Lebkuchen. In France, pain d'Úpices. In England it can be called Parkin and it's as crisp as a cracker. In America, it is soft like cake. Norwegians know it as brittle little biscuits called Pepperkaker. Poland loves Pierniki, while Russia loves Tula gingerbread. And Croatians bake Licitar in the shape of little hearts. It can assume the shape of cake, crackers, hearts, elaborate houses or little men with frosting hair and raisins for eyes.

The official story credits the Armenian monk, Gregory of Nicopolis, with introducing gingerbread to Europe in 992. He traveled from Armenia to France, where he taught gingerbread cooking to his fellow priests. By the 13th century, German immigrants brought the gingerbread tradition to Sweden, where it was the perfect accompaniment to coffee. A 1444 document describes Swedish nuns baking gingerbread as a digestive aid. Soon, it was a favorite across Europe and has remained so for more than 1,000 years. Which is just a little shorter than the shelf-life of those dry little gingerbread biscuits from England.

Victorian gingerbread decoration on a houseLest we forget, fancifully decorated gingerbread also gave us the name for this other Victorian treat - architectural gingerbread.

Gingerbread un-Real Estate

Gingerbread showboatGingerbread houses are both a culinary effort and a craft. The Brothers Grimm may have written the first description of a cottage fashioned of gingerbread in their 1812 Hansel and Gretel, but the tradition is far older. Today, gingerbread house exhibitions are held around the world, the most famous being in Bergen, Norway. Our own Port of Bellingham had its annual community display last week, and we ran right down with our camera.

Gingerbread campitoThere were dozens and dozens of mind-bending feats of edible engineering. We saw entire farms of gingerbread, towns, igloos, mobile homes, Santa's workshops, firetrucks, ski resorts, and vampire coffins. Our three favorites are pictured here.

The elaborate showboat is by the Miller family. The Bahee family created the detailed replica of the Washington State Capitol. And the sweet little clump in the foil box wasGingerbread house by Everly assembled by Everly (at 20 months old!). She won a ribbon for it.

Do you want to share in all the decorating fun, but with a fraction of the effort? Build little "gingerbread houses" out of square graham crackers glued to cardboard. Then break out the icing, gumdrops and Necco wafers, and decorate a special house for each place setting at your Christmas table!

Historic Gingerbread at Today's Prices

Sarah's Gingerbread in GrasmereGrasmere. A quaint village in the Northern English Lake District. We were there to see the historic home and grave site of the great English pastoral poet, William Wordsworth (1770-1850). We came away remembering Sarah Nelson (1815-1904) and her Grasmere Gingerbread. Poor Wordsworth spent his time wandering "lonely as a cloud that floats on high o'er vales and hills" when he should have been enjoying Sarah's spicy, crisp gingerbread biscuits just down the street. Honestly, we stood over Bill's grave, nibbling Sarah's biscuits and saying, "We really hope you tried these!"

You can order Grasmere Gingerbread online, and it comes in a quaint tin box! The shipping cost to the US is steep, but once a year it's worth it.

Bonus Recipe for Christmas!

Here again, we quote our ever-quotable friend, Celeste. We asked her to preview this recipe, and she promptly whipped up a batch. She wrote back to us the next day, "These are to die for. I ate one without the maple syrup and then later one with maple syrup....OH YEAH! Gotta use the syrup! My house smelled wonderful while they were baking too!"

Pumpkin Gingerbread Bars

2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup solid pack pumpkin (about half a 15oz can)
2 tbs molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tbs confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9-inch square pan with nonstick vegetable spray.

Beat eggs with electric mixer at high speed for 2 minutes. Add brown sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add pumpkin, molasses and vanilla. Beat at medium speed 2 minutes.

Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger; stir to blend. Add to pumpkin mixture, stir well, and pour into prepared pan. Bake 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes in the pan; invert onto platter. Sprinkle with confectioners'' sugar. We like to drizzle some warm maple syrup on top.

How about that? No fat!! Healthy carotenoids (the good Agent Orange), potassium, iron, riboflavin, folic acid and vitamin C!

Recipe from the Bellingham Herald, Jill Wendholt Silva.

Next Issue

We're expecting an e-visit from that most famous holiday figure - Carol Duvall. She sent a note with her travel plans for the holidays, and a lovely Advent Calendar from Jacquie Lawson! We hope to pass on her holiday wishes to you next week!

Visit Victorian Embroidery and Crafts! You will love Mary's pages on Victorian Christmas decorations (like the strange ivy-ribbon). She researches original books, magazines and sources, and transcribes the texts and illustrations. From Mary's website, you can faithfully reproduce a Victorian holiday scheme, or just enjoy it in your imagination.

Ten Vintage Christmas Greetings to Make cover photoDon't forget, these are the final weeks for the 30% Off Sale for subscribers only. Our e-book, "Ten Vintage Christmas Greetings to Make" has everything you need to make classy Vintage-inspired Christmas cards that will amaze your crafty friends. Take advantage of this limited-time offer. To get your 30% discount, enter this code during checkout:

DISCOUNT CODE: thanksgivingsale

(Expires 12/24/2010)

CLICK HERE to purchase your copy today!

And be sure to make a couple of Vintage Tag Christmas Cards for your "scrappy" friends.

Next issue - do you smell Plum Pudding?

Scott & Martin

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