Whatever happened to …

… gingerbread houses?

Actually, I know.  They definitely are still a thing for those who know what they’re doing.

Here in Amherstburg, we’re in full swing for the Christmas season.  Of course, there are the lights at the King’s Navy Yard and Toddy Jones’ Park but a real highlight – particularly on cold nights – is the warming house.

In there, you can talk to Santa or grab a cup of hot chocolate.  But, the showcase for us is always the gingerbread house competition.  That brought back a memory.

At one time, growing up, my mother bought a gingerbread house kit for my brother and me to make and enter into our own local competition.  The kit was something like this.

For the two of us, it was yet another thing to fight over and the work that it required was tedious and there was a great deal of attention to detail.  That was something that neither of us were good at and so our product never made it out of the house.  It looked like it was assembled by two people with no skill and no particular interest in doing a good job.  The no skill goes without saying and I’ll admit; after the first burst of enthusiasm, we did lose interest.  If I remember correctly, our “house” ended up looking more like broken ginger cookies assembled in a pile.  But, we had fluffy cotton batting to look like snow.

For a Sunday, your gingerbread stories please…

  • Do you like the taste of gingerbread?  If yes, plain or what’s your favourite topping?
  • Have you ever assembled a gingerbread house kit?
  • Is gingerbread a staple around your house for the month of December?
  • Have you ever made a gingerbread house “from scratch”?
  • What is the most unusual thing that you’ve seen added to a gingerbread house?
  • Does your community have a gingerbread house competition?

As always, I’d be interested in your stories.  Please share them in the comments below.

This is part of a regular Sunday series on this blog; you can read them all here.

In case you’re curious, yes, there were a number of gingerbread houses created by kit but the blue ribbon winners showed skill and innovation.  I’m way out of my league but certainly appreciated the work of others.

 

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7 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Doug, I wish that I could make amazing gingerbread houses like this. Most of my gingerbread experiences are in the classroom, and involve graham crackers. When I started teaching 18 years ago, the Kindergarten team at my school used to invite parents in to decorate gingerbread houses with their child. I remember staying for hours after school one night to make the gingerbread houses out of graham crackers. The vast majority of mine fell down. There’s a definite skill to juggling the perfect amount of graham crackers and icing. The teacher in charge definitely had this skill down, and helped me out when my houses collapsed. Fast forward about 12 years, and I got a gingerbread house kit to make in the classroom with some kindergarten kids. My EA helped with this, and a small group of children. It was a feat in itself. Again, it was all about putting enough icing to stick the pieces together, but not enough, to make everything too slippery so it fell down. They did it in the end, but with no help from me!

    I wonder if part of the fun in making these houses are in the breaking, reassembling, and tasting along the way! Thanks, as always, for this weekly trip down memory lane!

    Aviva

  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Aviva. It’s even more important that you were able to dig back in the past and pull out an image of your? work. A technical question – does using graham crackers disqualify it from being a gingerbread house? Is there an authority in this field?

    More importantly, are you doing gingerbread houses with this year’s class?

  3. Thanks Doug! Once again this morning, I was thankful for tweeting our learning/experiences. While I shared this photograph, I actually found quite a few of the process. Nice to be able to look back.

    I think that graham crackers make the houses gingerbread-ish, but trust me, we weren’t winning any awards here. 🙂 My teaching partner, Paula, and I haven’t discussed any gingerbread house plans yet, but you never know. Our concern this year is more around food allergies. Finding peanut-free and nut-free gingerbread, icing, and candy (especially!!) is a challenge. The class that I built with in that first year of teaching had no allergies. In fact, we could bring peanut butter to school. When does that ever happen now?!

    Aviva

  4. This post made me smile. I always envied the kids whose families produced stunning gingerbread houses, right out of Hansel and Gretel….until I actually tasted royal icing! It’s horrible, rock hard stuff. No envy anymore.

    My kids, therefore, never had this experience, and I don’t think we’re any the worse for it. I do bake ginger cookies at Christmas, and they are a favourite. Deep and dark with molasses and spice, they are one of the tastes of Christmas for me. Give me those any time as opposed to dry cardboard gingerbread from a kit….(hmmm, is my made from scratch bias showing a little? )

  5. It is coming through, Lisa. Quite frankly, I expected you to check in indicating that you made your own gingerbread from scratch and then assembled it to a house.

  6. I can’t wait to go to the park and check out the Gingerbread Houses this year. I’m amazed at the talent on display. Several times we bought the gingerbread house kits from Bulk Barn and decorated them with the girls. Lisa N is right, the gingerbread and royal icing isn’t nice to look at but not to eat.

    Aviva, as a peanut allergy sufferer myself, there are lots of decorating options – gumdrops, gumballs, lifesavers, peppermints, pretzels, plain M&Ms, and even cereal (Shreddies make great shingles!). The problem is that it’s a bit more expensive because you have to buy the candy prepackaged. At bulk food stores, there’s always the risk of cross contamination. I’ll risk it myself ( and I”ve been burned when I got a chocolate covered peanut in a bunch of chocolate covered raisins) but I wouldn’t risk it if I had students with allergies.

    Doug, if you find some homemade ginger and molasses cookies, bring me one. They’re my favourite. I can’t bake them because I’d eat the whole batch! Hope you’re feeling better!

  7. My mother-in-law used to make Ginger Sparklers which rapidly turned into my favourite holiday cookie. When we get some made, Lisa, we’ll need to make a point to catch up and I’ll bring some with me for your opinion. They are addictive and a family favourite around here.

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