Children’s Rhymes and Baking Powder Revisited: A Gingerbread Man

This week features another item from the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Archives. It’s a companion post to one from early this spring about Billy and a visit to the strange land of Bunbury. Two years before, in 1923, Royal Baking Powder reached out to the children/mother audience with The Little Gingerbread Man, a sponsored look at a classic nursery rhyme character.

Once again, we’re supplied with vibrant images, rhyming couplets, and none-too-subtle product placement. Each illustration features a canister of baking powder and most include at least a partial view of the New Royal Cook Book, published in 1922 and in 1923, available for free by mail. In this story, the King of Jalapomp, a poor cook indeed, bans baked goods. It takes the influences of the Queen of the Flour Folk, Johnny Gingerbread, and a host of other characters bearing “good” cakes (all made with Royal Baking Powder, of course!) to change the King’s mind.

Each page containing part of the story also has a recipes, basic baked goods like cinnamon buns, gingerbread men, doughnuts, sugar cookies, birthday cake, and “surprise muffins.” (The general lesson we’ve learned so far on this blog is that the word “surprise” appearing in a recipes makes us wary. However, this is a prime example of the opposite! “Surprise muffins” include jelly or fruit in the center–yum!)

Both The Little Gingerbread Man and Billy in Bunbury are relatively rare pieces. There are 17 of the former and only 3 of the latter cataloged in academic and public libraries. Both publications are prime examples of culinary ephemera never intended to last this long. Yet, here they are, sitting quietly on our shelves, little pieces of children’s literary and food history we are pleased to  preserve. Which is just a friendly reminder to visit your local Special Collections, whether it’s us here at Virginia Tech or elsewhere. Chances are, they have a treasure or two worth seeing that may just brighten your day.

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