From Bread to Snaps: A Ginger-Filled Tour of History

It’s that time of year where some people have ginger on the brain. The Internet is full of gingerbread creations: loaves, cookies, men, houses, villages, monuments, and pop-culture icons. (You can see the results of an image search on “gingerbread creations” here–nothing rude, I promise.) Not surprisingly, the History of Food & Drink Collection is full of recipes. Nothing quite as exciting as the Arc de Triompe or a whole village, but the variations are many.

The gallery features ginger bread, ginger cake, and ginger snap recipes from several historical sources and represent only a sample of the recipes among our books and manuscripts! They all have ginger in common, but the evolution of gingerbread and its sibling goodies have come a long way from the Medieval days of white bread crumbs and spices. However, the notes regarding Martha Washington’s recipes suggest gingerbread has always had a very long-standing relationship with the holidays: “prints [essential pressed or molded shapes-presumably like the modern gingerbread cookie] is moste used after the second course in christmas.”

Of course, like many recipes up through the late 19th century and into the early 20th century, if you’re looking for specific baking directions, you may be out of luck. If you feel like trying one of the recipes from our post today, you may have to draw on the more modern recipes for oven times and temps–but let us know! We’d love to hear about your experience.

Special Collections has nearly reached the end of our year in the office as we’re closed from December 22-January 1.  So, we’ll take a moment to say

Happy Holidays!

from us to you. We’ll be back in 2013 with lots more books, manuscripts, recipes, and images (edible and not-quite-so), and more news, events, and new acquisitions!

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