Every Day is a Food Day

Gingerbread: Oh Snap!

November 16, 2022 Van Valin Productions & YumDay Season 3 Episode 35
Gingerbread: Oh Snap!
Every Day is a Food Day
More Info
Every Day is a Food Day
Gingerbread: Oh Snap!
Nov 16, 2022 Season 3 Episode 35
Van Valin Productions & YumDay

It's our Season Finale, Listeners! And it's also the holidays! So we're celebrating the end of 2022 with one of our favorite festive foods: GINGERBREAD! Our Chef-Creator Lia Ballentine kicks things off with a brief history of gingerbread, the medieval monk that helped make it popular in Europe, and how food hero Amelia Simmons introduced the first American gingerbread recipes in her pioneering cookbook, “American Cookery.” Plus, Lia tells us about the best days to celebrate the sweet and spicy treat, and the unbelievable gingerbread houses you can see at the National Gingerbread House Competition in Asheville, North Carolina. In the Deep Dish, our Foodlosopher Anna Van Valin asks the question: why are we so obsessed with gingerbread houses? She explores how the Brothers Grimm baked gingerbread house imagery into popular culture with the story of Hansel and Gretel. She also tells us about how gingerbread houses inspired an actual architectural movement, the many fantasy gingerbread-house-insipred attractions that range from whimsical to creepy, and the connection between gingerbread houses and...Mar-a-Lago?? Ready to snap into this episode? Then join us as we indulge in all things gingerbread!

Explore more from the show:

Connect with us:

  • Want to support our women and BIPOC-created independent podcast? Buy us a coffee!
  • For more great content about the stories & foods we talk about on the show (plus a peek BTS) follow us at @FoodDayPod on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook or check out our webpage.
  • Join our mailing list for extra content and to keep up with all the exciting things we have planned for this season.

Show Notes Transcript

It's our Season Finale, Listeners! And it's also the holidays! So we're celebrating the end of 2022 with one of our favorite festive foods: GINGERBREAD! Our Chef-Creator Lia Ballentine kicks things off with a brief history of gingerbread, the medieval monk that helped make it popular in Europe, and how food hero Amelia Simmons introduced the first American gingerbread recipes in her pioneering cookbook, “American Cookery.” Plus, Lia tells us about the best days to celebrate the sweet and spicy treat, and the unbelievable gingerbread houses you can see at the National Gingerbread House Competition in Asheville, North Carolina. In the Deep Dish, our Foodlosopher Anna Van Valin asks the question: why are we so obsessed with gingerbread houses? She explores how the Brothers Grimm baked gingerbread house imagery into popular culture with the story of Hansel and Gretel. She also tells us about how gingerbread houses inspired an actual architectural movement, the many fantasy gingerbread-house-insipred attractions that range from whimsical to creepy, and the connection between gingerbread houses and...Mar-a-Lago?? Ready to snap into this episode? Then join us as we indulge in all things gingerbread!

Explore more from the show:

Connect with us:

  • Want to support our women and BIPOC-created independent podcast? Buy us a coffee!
  • For more great content about the stories & foods we talk about on the show (plus a peek BTS) follow us at @FoodDayPod on Instagram, Twitter & Facebook or check out our webpage.
  • Join our mailing list for extra content and to keep up with all the exciting things we have planned for this season.

0:00:00.0 Anna: You know, I'm not like 100% on the witch's side, but these kids ate her house.


0:00:06.3 Lia: They did eat her house.


0:00:07.3 Anna: I know they were hungry, but like you can't knock.


0:00:08.3 Lia: Yeah. Just be like, like, hi, I saw you had some extra gumdrops here. Would you mind if we just took them? It's not a load bearing gumdrop.




0:00:18.3 Anna: Hi listeners, welcome to Every Day is a Food Day, a show about the stories, scandals, history and holidays behind your favorite foods.




0:00:38.3 Anna: I'm your host, foodlosopher, Anna Van Valin.


0:00:47.0 Lia: And I'm your other host, chef creator, Lia Ballentine. Today, we're saying hello to the holidays and goodbye to 2022. It's our season three finale.


0:00:55.0 Anna: And what better way to snap into the holiday spirit than by talking about gingerbread.


0:01:00.9 Lia: First up, I'll tell you how we got this gingery treat made of sugar and spice and everything nice thanks to yet another medieval monk and our favorite pioneer cookbook author. The best days to indulge in gingerbread and the national competition where you can feast your eyes on the most impressive gingerbread houses in the country.


0:01:17.6 Anna: Speaking of gingerbread houses, why are we so into them? You can thank two nosy German kids named Hansel and Gretel. In The Deep Dish, I'm gonna talk about how that grim story baked gingerbread houses into pop culture and inspired everything from operas to architectural movements to the creepiest abandoned theme parks you can't unsee.


0:01:38.2 Lia: If you want to support this women and BIPOC created independent podcast, then run, run as fast as you can to click the buy me a copy link in the show notes or on our website to help us cover the cost of production. Please leave us a rating and review.


0:01:52.7 Anna: For more delicious content about these foods and stories and a peak behind the scenes, check out the links in our show notes to visit our website, join our mailing list and connect with us on social media at the screen name @fooddaypod, including our monthly Instagram lives.




0:02:07.2 Anna: Hello, Lia.


0:02:15.2 Lia: Hi, Anna.


0:02:16.5 Anna: Happy holidays.


0:02:18.1 Lia: Oh my gosh. Are you in the spirit yet?


0:02:20.4 Anna: I'm getting there. I think that this is really gonna push me over the edge.


0:02:23.2 Lia: Yeah, I think this is the episode that we need to fully embrace being in the holiday spirit now.


0:02:27.9 Anna: It gets so confusing because it's like there's pumpkin spice, there's Halloween and then there's Christmas. And I'm like, wait a minute. What about the nuance?


0:02:35.8 Lia: Yeah. The sudden shift from skeletons to Santa Claus is a little much.


0:02:43.2 Anna: It's abrupt. So here we're gonna ease into it.


0:02:46.5 Lia: Yep.


0:02:47.4 Anna: But really get into that gingerbready Christmasy, warm cocoa place.


0:02:53.2 Lia: I like it.


0:02:54.4 Anna: We have done holiday episodes in the past and we should mention that this is our last episode of the year. This is our season finale.


0:03:00.6 Lia: Yeah.


0:03:00.7 Anna: And it's been a great year.


0:03:01.7 Lia: It has been. We've covered a lot of foods.


0:03:04.1 Anna: Covered a lot of foods.


0:03:05.3 Lia: And styles.


0:03:05.8 Anna: Pretzels.


0:03:06.0 Lia: Oh my gosh. Who knew? Who knew about pretzels for God?


0:03:10.2 Anna: Who knew pretzels for God.


0:03:11.1 Lia: Mm hmm.


0:03:12.4 Anna: Aphrodisiac foods, which is all of them and none of them.


0:03:15.7 Lia: That's true. If you're wondering, is that an aphrodisiac? It's yes and no.


0:03:20.3 Anna: Yes and no. Is it considered an aphrodisiac? Probably.


0:03:22.9 Lia: Yep.


0:03:23.4 Anna: Is there a straight line to Bone Town? No.


0:03:26.2 Lia: No, there never is.


0:03:27.5 Anna: You gotta figure out what works for you. What else did we do? Peppers.


0:03:33.7 Lia: We did peppers.


0:03:33.8 Anna: We put on our lab coats.


0:03:36.4 Lia: We ate cookies. We had a lot of cookies.


0:03:39.3 Anna: Oh man. So many cookies. That was a two parter. We bit off more than we could chew.


0:03:45.5 Lia: We had some fun collaborations too with our friends at The Drinking Horn.


0:03:49.3 Anna: Yes.


0:03:50.0 Lia: That was awesome.


0:03:50.7 Anna: That was so fun. And you took us on a journey.


0:03:54.5 Lia: I did.


0:03:55.6 Anna: Took us on a trip to celebrate your heritage.


0:03:57.5 Lia: Took you home with me. We ate all my foods together. And that was so much fun to get to share that. It's really special.


0:04:04.8 Anna: Yeah. I'm so glad we got to do that too. I mean, it's our show. So yeah.


0:04:10.1 Lia: I mean, we kind of make like every episode a little bit of a Filipino American history.


0:04:16.4 Anna: Absolutely. That's what you bring. Bring it to the table.


0:04:19.5 Lia: Exactly.


0:04:20.9 Anna: The dinner table.


0:04:22.4 Lia: Mm-hmm.


0:04:23.6 Anna: So thank you everyone for joining us this year for season three. This is our 35th episode.


0:04:28.6 Lia: Whoa!


0:04:29.9 Anna: Tell us what you liked. Tell us what you want us to still cover. Tell us what you learned. We wanna hear from you. DM us. Email us.


0:04:38.4 Lia: Slide into the DMs.


0:04:39.8 Anna: Slide into our DMs. So today we're doing a holiday episode to round out the year. And we've done them before. We did our pumpkin pie episode.


0:04:49.1 Lia: Yeah. Pumpkin pie.


0:04:50.5 Anna: Classic. And of course, fruitcake.


0:04:53.6 Lia: Fruitcake.


0:04:54.4 Anna: Give fruitcake a chance. And I got to say, when I actually tasted real deal fruitcake. Yeah. I'm a convert. I like fruitcake now. It's delicious, right?


0:05:05.0 Lia: Yeah. You got to get the good fruitcake though. Don't just buy the log that's been sitting at the gas station for who knows how long.


0:05:13.6 Anna: Right. If it's in tin, don't. Move on.


0:05:16.8 Lia: Get a real fruitcake. It'll change your life.


0:05:20.3 Anna: Get a real fruitcake. And it was very much of the time, right? Because it was deep into quarantine. So it was like we've all got the bandwidth right now to just stare at some dough. Seep it in booze for a year.


0:05:31.5 Lia: Yeah.


0:05:32.1 Anna: Let's try that. But today we're talking about gingerbread.


0:05:37.3 Lia: Oh, heck yeah. Gingerbread is so, so good.


0:05:41.2 Anna: I love ginger. Like I love the ginger lemon mead. I love it in my tea. And if you put ginger plus cookies, I'm in.


0:05:49.3 Lia: Exactly. Just like you were saying, you already had me at ginger. One of my favorite sort of flavors to have in anything. And then if you're gonna make it sweet, sugar or honey. Yeah. I'm raising my hand for that one.


0:06:04.0 Anna: I love the cake. I love gingerbread cake. As much as I love the snappies, like a really moist cake with a cream cheese frosting.


0:06:12.5 Lia: Oh, my God.


0:06:14.8 Anna: I'm feeling the holiday spirit.


0:06:16.1 Lia: Yeah.


0:06:16.2 Anna: Oh, yeah. Spirit's moving me. I do think that gingerbread houses are kind of on the same plane as trail mix, which is they are just the excuse to eat candy.


0:06:26.8 Lia: Right. Like do I really need all of these weird little candy dots?


0:06:32.4 Anna: The gumdrops.


0:06:33.5 Lia: Yeah.


0:06:34.3 Anna: The licorice awning. The answer is yes.


0:06:37.6 Lia: You do.


0:06:38.8 Anna: But I feel like with trail mix, it's just sure there's peanuts, there's raisins, but there's the M&Ms. There's never M&Ms left at the bottom of the bag. You know what I'm saying?


0:06:48.0 Lia: You pick through the trail mix and get all the candy stuff. You leave the raisins. Nobody actually eats the raisins in the trail mix.


0:06:55.5 Anna: No one eats the raisins. Has your trail mix ever seen a trail?


0:06:58.7 Lia: No.


0:07:01.0 Anna: No.


0:07:01.6 Lia: It just sits in the bottom of a bag. Maybe like the fruitcake. I don't know how long it's been there.


0:07:05.5 Anna: It's in the back of the snack bin.


0:07:07.1 Lia: Yeah.


0:07:07.8 Anna: Way, way back. Yeah. I thought I wanted those dried cranberries, but once the chocolate chips ran out, it wasn't as attractive. So was decorating gingerbread, gingerbread people and houses, was that part of your Christmas tradition ever?


0:07:20.6 Lia: I did it a few times. We would get those little kits, but they just never had enough icing to hold the house together. And then of course it would fall apart and then you'd just have to start eating it. So I don't know if I've ever completed like an entire gingerbread house and then actually had it on display for a while. It usually was like I worked on it one afternoon, it sort of stood up and then it fell apart and then I ate it.


0:07:44.2 Anna: It is like edible Jenga.


0:07:45.7 Lia: Yeah.


0:07:47.4 Anna: Because you're trying, you're like, okay, I can hold these two pieces together and then maybe I can set this on. Nope, nope. And it's gone.


0:07:53.1 Lia: Nope. I'm just going to eat it.


0:07:54.3 Anna: We used to make real gingerbread houses.


0:07:56.8 Lia: Oh, wow.


0:07:57.0 Anna: Like my mom at some point made templates for all the pieces just like out of cardboard.


0:08:03.2 Lia: Impressive.


0:08:04.2 Anna: And then you got to let the gingerbread sit for a little while so it can get nice and hard and then decorate them. Here's the thing though, they were hideous. Like that's what I loved about seeing the gingerbread house contests and stuff is like, they're incredible. But when you're a kid, you're just like, this is a gumdrop wall.


0:08:21.9 Lia: Like none of those looked cute.


0:08:25.1 Anna: No, they never looked cute. But you got to make them and then smash them.


0:08:29.2 Lia: Was this on top of the Yeager family cookie table too? Was there a separate table for your gingerbread houses?


0:08:35.9 Anna: We did this at home in Buffalo. The epic Yeager, we can say table in quotes, there were several tables end to end, but that was here in Southern California.


0:08:46.8 Lia: Got it.


0:08:47.6 Anna: The gingerbread house I think we made in my house in Buffalo.


0:08:50.8 Lia: Nice.


0:08:51.4 Anna: You know, where we were snow experts, so you got to have a lot of icing on there. A lot of those big flat like snow caps. Those have to be on there for realism. But yeah, I love gingerbread. And like you said, the ginger sweetened, right? And one of the key most common sweeteners or ingredients is molasses. Have you ever heard of the great molasses flood?


0:09:14.8 Lia: Wait, I'm just imagining, like, how much molasses do you need to cause a flood? Like was this like a flood flood or like, just a tiny kitchen flood?


0:09:27.1 Anna: No, no, like people died.


0:09:29.6 Lia: No.


0:09:30.6 Anna: It's incredible. So this happened in 1919 in Boston. I'm kind of obsessed with this story. There was a giant tank of molasses, which they were fermenting to get ethanol and like alcohol to distill.


0:09:44.5 Lia: Okay.


0:09:45.5 Anna: And an investigation showed that it was super shoddy. Like the tank was put together with like spit and hope. But it was in Boston in the winter.


0:09:54.8 Lia: Oh, okay.


0:09:56.2 Anna: And it had gotten like above 40 degrees, so the molasses expanded in the tank.


0:10:00.7 Lia: Oh, no.


0:10:01.7 Anna: And it burst. And the tank was at the top of a hill.


0:10:07.7 Lia: Of course it was.


0:10:07.8 Anna: And this was, you guys, like, how many barrels could this fit? It was like hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of gallons. So it actually rolled down the hill and like took over a neighborhood.


0:10:20.6 Lia: Oh my God.


0:10:21.4 Anna: Isn't that insane?


0:10:22.5 Lia: That is terrifying.


0:10:25.2 Anna: But it's molasses and it was cold. So I just had this image of like, in Austin Powers where the guy's in the hallway and there's like the little mini bulldozer and he's like, no.


0:10:37.8 Lia: Oh my gosh, that is crazy.


0:10:40.0 Anna: So people got like laminated in the molasses, like freaking Jurassic Park with the mosquito and amber. And they had to call in troops and stuff to like dig them out.


0:10:50.7 Lia: That's terrifying.


0:10:51.3 Anna: I know. But also amazing.


0:10:53.8 Lia: Yeah. And now I'm thinking about that phrase, slow as molasses. Like I guess you couldn't outrun these molasses.


0:11:00.4 Anna: It's very viscous.


0:11:02.2 Lia: So it's sticky.


0:11:03.3 Anna: I can see it being slow. But also it's like dense. It would maybe gain some velocity on its way down.


0:11:10.9 Lia: Yeah. Oh my God. That is crazy. The molasses flood. A legit flood made of molasses.


0:11:17.6 Anna: A legit flood. And legend has it that that area of Boston smelled sweet, like smelled like molasses for decades.


0:11:26.1 Lia: Oh, I'm sure. I mean, you can't get that stuff out if it sticks to like a tea towel.


0:11:31.9 Anna: Oh no, you gotta throw that sh** away. Imagine if it's in the nooks and crannies of all your like cobblestones. So yeah, the great molasses flood. And to tie it all in, do you know why they were rushing everything and doing shoddy work?


0:11:45.6 Lia: No.


0:11:46.6 Anna: Because later that month, prohibition went into effect.


0:11:50.9 Lia: Oh, so they were like, we got to move if we want this.


0:11:53.4 Anna: Exactly. Which again, prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol. So they knew they were getting shut down. So they were like, we gotta...


0:12:01.6 Lia: We gotta work fast guys. If we want any of this.


0:12:02.3 Anna: We gotta pick all this molasses, or should damned. There's a little food story for you, everybody. The great molasses flood of Boston.


0:12:11.0 Lia: Oh my gosh. That was awesome, Anna. I'll never look at molasses the same way again.


0:12:17.0 Anna: Did you know it was a weapon?


0:12:18.8 Lia: Dangerous.


0:12:19.9 Anna: A weapon of mass destruction. Yeah, like 21 people died.


0:12:22.9 Lia: Oh my goodness. Yikes.


0:12:24.9 Anna: Yikes. Anyway should we dive into not the molasses, but the history and story of gingerbread?


0:12:32.3 Lia: Yeah, let's do it. Let's take a bite out of this.


0:12:35.6 Anna: Let's get snappy with our gingerbread.




0:12:42.8 Anna: All right, Lia, tell us all about gingerbread.


0:12:44.8 Lia: Let's talk about it. If you need to know, like what is gingerbread? It's pretty much any kind of sweet that combines ginger with honey or molasses or something sugary. That's it. That's the broad term. Gingerbread can be thick and puffy and cakey. You can make smaller, little bite-sized things that are more muffin-like. And of course you'll have gingerbread cookies. So gingerbread can be whatever you want it to be, as long as it's got ginger and is sweet. But during medieval times in England, gingerbread was actually the term for preserving ginger. So I'm wondering, Anna, is this like when things got embreadened?


0:13:21.3 Lia: I don't know.


0:13:22.9 Lia: I think they embreadened the ginger to contain it, and to hold it and preserve it.


0:13:27.0 Anna: I mean, bread doesn't last, so that doesn't make a ton of sense. But also putting anything in bread makes sense on some level.


0:13:33.8 Lia: Yeah, I was trying to look this up. I didn't find too much information. So if someone knows why that term is also related to preserving ginger, let us know. But if we're going to talk about gingerbread, we have to discuss ginger, key ingredient. Although ginger spread to Europe via the Silk Road as a spice, it was originally cultivated in China and used primarily in medicine. Even today, we still have ginger in foods if we want to treat like an upset stomach or you have ginger chews to help you if you've got a hoarse throat or just aren't feeling too well. So ginger kind of got its start as medicine. But by the time it made its way to Europe, people discovered that this flavor was really great and it actually helped mask off any off flavors that you would get from things like preserved meats.


0:14:18.3 Anna: Right. So the more things that we've talked about this year about preserving food, smoking meat or using the peppers or using the vinegar pickling things, the more I'm thinking that the obsession with spices wasn't necessarily to like make good food better. It was to make not great food tolerable.


0:14:37.8 Lia: Exactly.


0:14:38.5 Anna: You know what I mean?


0:14:39.1 Lia: How can we make this something we can eat? Because we got to eat, but this doesn't taste great. So something like ginger would help overcome or overpower the flavor of some old meat.


0:14:50.2 Anna: Instead of A1 sauce for your iffy steak.


0:14:53.8 Lia: Yeah. Just add some ginger to it.


0:14:57.3 Anna: Ginger.


0:14:57.4 Lia: And even as this became more of an ingredient that people would use in cooking, through the years, it still managed to maintain its status as a medicinal root. I read this one article that said Henry the eighth even told folks to eat ginger to avoid the plague.


0:15:11.9 Anna: That guy was full of good ideas.


0:15:13.8 Lia: Yeah. And so today we still continue to use that ginger as a remedy.


0:15:19.0 Anna: I love a ginger tea when I have a sore throat.


0:15:21.8 Lia: Exactly. Ginger tea. There's a Filipino soup, Lugaw. It's like a rice porridge and loaded up with ginger. And it's to me one of those comfort foods that I'll eat when I'm not feeling really well. And I'll just stick like an entire ginger root in there.


0:15:37.0 Anna: So ginger breading was a type of preserving ginger. But who is the genius who thought, hmm, ginger bread. What if we get literal on that and actually put ginger in the bread?


0:15:49.9 Lia: I wish we could pinpoint a single genius, but I guess there were many geniuses throughout the ages that figured out, you know what we could do with ginger? We can make it into something bready and add some sugar to it. Now, because ginger has been around pretty much forever, there are so many recipes that use ginger. But that first known recipe for gingerbread actually came from Greece in 2400 BC.


0:16:11.4 Anna: Oh, wow.


0:16:12.1 Lia: That's a long time ago.


0:16:13.3 Anna: That's a long time ago.


0:16:13.8 Anna: And then, of course, in China, where ginger root was cultivated, there are a lot of recipes for a type of gingerbread there. And there are some that they found that were recorded in the 10th century. And then by the Middle Ages, there were gingerbread cookies popping up at medieval fairs. So gingerbread is a fair food.


0:16:30.0 Anna: Oh, absolutely. When my dad lived in Germany, I loved to go visit around Christmas time because German Christmas fairs, they're called Weinsmacks, are legendary. And one of the big things is they call gingerbread lebkuchen. And you would buy their like slabs of lebkuchen cut into different shapes like hearts or stars, and then decorate it with icing, and they come on a ribbon, and so you put it around your neck.


0:16:55.8 Lia: What?


0:16:56.2 Anna: You hang it around your neck.


0:16:58.4 Lia: Hello.


0:16:58.8 Anna: Kind of like, remember some of the pretzel ceremonies?


0:17:02.4 Lia: Yeah, the pretzel necklaces.


0:17:03.8 Anna: Yeah, people would give pretzel necklaces to your sweetheart. You give them a necklace, although you can buy the lebkuchen for your damn self. But yeah, then you'd like walk around and have your mulled wine and all your stuff and like nom on your giant chunk of gingerbread around your neck.


0:17:17.8 Lia: That's awesome. Ladies, you don't need someone to give you a Tiffany necklace.


0:17:22.6 Anna: You don't need diamonds and pearls.


0:17:24.7 Lia: Yeah, you need gingerbread. I would totally love to get a gift of a gingerbread necklace. You'd smell so good too.


0:17:31.0 Anna: Oh, yeah.


0:17:31.8 Lia: It'd be like the molasses smell.


0:17:34.4 Anna: You'd smell like downtown Boston.


0:17:37.5 Lia: Mm-hmm. So when the gingerbread cookies were popping up at the fairs, I read that there is one person that could have influenced the spread of gingerbread in Europe during this time. And he was an Armenian monk named Gregory Markar.


0:17:51.0 Anna: The monks.


0:17:52.0 Lia: It's a monk.


0:17:52.0 Anna: Another monk.


0:17:53.7 Lia: Mm-hmm.


0:17:54.3 Anna: Wow.


0:17:55.5 Lia: So this monk, Gregory the Armenian, as he was known, was chased out of his home by the Persian army and he had escaped to the Loire Valley in France. And during this time, he was kind of living off the land and living in very small rooms. He was said to live off a diet of edible roots and wild honey. So he was probably eating a ton of ginger root and then mixing it with honey. So actually like two things that could last a long time probably.


0:18:19.3 Anna: Yeah. I mean literally in his survival bunker.


0:18:21.5 Lia: Yeah, it's in his survival bunker. He had ginger root and honey and he started to make gingerbread cookies and it became kind of a thing. And as he met other French priests and monks and people in the village, he would share his gingerbread with them. And then they were like, Dude, this is delicious. How did you make it? And he started to teach them how to make gingerbread.


0:18:42.6 Anna: Amazing. Do you think 'cause he was staying in French monasteries, he just like spilled some ginger in a baguette?


0:18:49.5 Lia: Probably.


0:18:51.9 Anna: In my head, I'm like, duh, French bread.


0:18:54.0 Lia: He's like, Hey, wait, this is so good.


0:18:56.6 Anna: This is great.


0:18:56.7 Lia: Why not?


0:18:58.8 Anna: Hey where's that honey?


0:19:00.0 Lia: Add some honey on top.


0:19:01.6 Anna: It's Magnifique.


0:19:02.6 Lia: So around this time, the Middle Ages, gingerbread really was starting to become a thing. And then of course, decorating gingerbread and gingerbread cookies was becoming very popular too. So as folks started making more cookies, they figured out they could create fun little shapes and they would change the shapes to fit the season. So you'd have little flowery shapes in the spring, you have little snow shapes in the winter. And of course, if you were a fancy person and you had the means, because again, ginger is still an exotic spice to have. If you could do anything super elaborate and ornate, like that meant you were the bomb when it came to your gingerbread cookies. So the fancier the gingerbread cookie was, it usually meant that you were probably a wealthier person too.


0:19:44.7 Anna: Right, because to make the icing, you would need a lot of sugar, which would also come from overseas. Yeah.


0:19:48.1 Lia: Exactly. And we start to see a lot of gingerbread that gets shaped like people around the 16th century. And this was the time when figural biscuit making started to become a thing. Yeah, not only with gingerbread cookies, but there were other cakes and pastries that bakers were trying to form into the shapes of people. But the first documented gingerbread person was made at the court of Elizabeth the first. Some folks were saying she would create shapes to match the figures of her VIP guests that would come visit. And the others were, she would make little gingerbread men for potential suitors as well. So that's really when you start to see little gingerbread people pop up.


0:20:30.9 Anna: Love it. Now what about gingerbread houses?


0:20:35.6 Lia: Gingerbread houses gained popularity in the 18th century, but then really took off in the early 19th century. And we think it was thanks to two dudes who liked creepy stories. You might have heard of them, the Brothers Grimm.


0:20:48.5 Anna: Oh, yes.


0:20:49.5 Lia: Now, Anna, you're gonna dive more into this later in the deep dish, but I can't talk about gingerbread history without mentioning Hansel and Gretel.


0:20:56.7 Anna: Oh, no way.


0:20:58.0 Lia: That messed up story put gingerbread houses on the map. But when it comes to gingerbread's entry into America, the first sort of truly American gingerbread recipe comes from our girl Amelia Simmons. She's back, y'all.


0:21:10.8 Anna: Amelia for the win.


0:21:13.5 Lia: Yeah.


0:21:13.6 Anna: Do you need a recipe for literally anything?


0:21:16.4 Lia: Go back to Amelia Simmons' cookbook from 1796. You can find it there.


0:21:21.2 Anna: Check out the index. It's probably there. I love that...


0:21:25.0 Lia: Yeah, she had gingerbread cakes, molasses gingerbread. So you could find the first true recipe for gingerbread using American ingredients from Amelia's cookbook. And today we see gingerbread as one of the top treats that we think of during the holidays.




0:21:44.7 Anna: So we know that gingerbread is associated with, the "holidays" so Christmas, Christmas Eve, winter. But are there any holidays made just for gingerbread?


0:21:56.6 Lia: There are. There are gingerbread holidays. So I will give you a list of them and I'm going to throw in another fun ginger related holiday that we should all mark on our calendars.


0:22:06.8 Anna: Excellent.


0:22:07.4 Lia: So we have National Gingerbread Day, which is on June the 5th. Which is weird 'cause we just said that we associate it with the holidays. But maybe having a Gingerbread Day in the middle of the year is our way to have a little gingerbread without having to wait so long to have it again.


0:22:23.1 Anna: Regular intervals.


0:22:24.6 Lia: Exactly.


0:22:25.6 Anna: Every six months you get your dose of gingerbread.


0:22:27.1 Lia: That's right.


0:22:28.0 Anna: I could see that.


0:22:29.2 Lia: And then we have National Gingersnap Day, July 1st. So if you want to go a little thinner or crispier with your ginger cookie, enjoy that at the beginning of July. And then we have national gingerbread cookie day, November 21st. This starts to make more sense. Now we're getting into...


0:22:45.5 Anna: Yeah. Getting closer.


0:22:46.1 Lia: This holiday spirit, feeling festive. And then we've got National Gingerbread House Day, December 12th.


0:22:52.9 Anna: Okay.


0:22:53.5 Lia: Now, there is a special day on January 12th that everybody should mark on their calendars. And it's called, Kiss a ginger day. It's so sweet.


0:23:01.7 Anna: It is. Find a local ginger.


0:23:03.6 Lia: Find your ginger in your life and give that ginger a kiss.


0:23:06.2 Anna: Give them a smooch. Oh, man. That's so sad, though. Do they need the day? Do they not get kissed enough?


0:23:13.1 Lia: [chuckle] I guess so. The gingers.


0:23:15.3 Anna: I bet a Weasley invented that.


0:23:18.2 Lia: I bet so.


0:23:18.3 Anna: That seems like a Fred and George type of invention. All right. I'll be sure to kiss a ginger that day.


0:23:23.7 Lia: Kiss a ginger. January 12th. But on top of all of these Gingerbread Days, there are definitely a lot of gingerbread celebrations that happen all over the country, especially during the holiday season. I'm sure if you look up your local community newspaper right now, you could probably find some sort of gingerbread cookie swap or gingerbread making competition or gingerbread house contest.


0:23:46.7 Anna: I feel like that's something else we should be a judge on.


0:23:49.5 Lia: I know. More applications to judge food contests.


0:23:53.7 Anna: If your local Madison, Wisconsin Library gingerbread house competition needs a judge, we got you.


0:24:02.2 Lia: Call us. And probably one of the biggest gingerbread events in the US is the National Gingerbread House Competition in Asheville, North Carolina. This is a big deal.


0:24:11.1 Anna: Oh, yeah. This is the Mack Daddy.


0:24:12.5 Lia: Exactly. The Mack Daddy of gingerbread competitions. It takes place at this beautiful location called the Grove Park Inn, just nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And it started in 1992 with just a small community of local gingerbread house makers. Over the past 30 years, this competition has grown. It has brought in people from across the country and even outside of the country. And everybody's there showing off their gingerbread houses. And this is definitely not like the houses that Anna and I talked about.


0:24:41.9 Anna: Oh, no.


0:24:44.1 Lia: [chuckle] At the beginning of the segment. These are like massive, multi-feet, multi-tiered, crazy gingerbread houses that takes a lot of time.


0:24:54.3 Anna: And they use the term house loosely, right? Like if you look at them, sometimes it's like an under the sea scene or it's the North Pole or I think the winner a couple years ago was a bunch of nutcrackers made out of gingerbread.


0:25:07.4 Lia: Yeah, it's like sculptural.


0:25:10.2 Anna: Yeah.


0:25:10.2 Lia: It's art.


0:25:11.0 Anna: If you watch videos of the competition, the most nerve wracking moments is them getting the houses out of the cars. For some reason, in all their sizzle reels, they show the people like opening up their trunks and pulling out these things that they've spent hundreds of hours on. And you'll like, No!


0:25:26.6 Lia: No, please don't drop it. Don't shake it. And then you've got to roll it into the Grove Park Inn.


0:25:34.7 Anna: Over all the little bumps.


0:25:34.8 Lia: Exactly. Look here's a great clip from the PBS show Craft in America. And this is from their 2014 holiday episode that featured this gingerbread house competition. So in it, you'll hear from one of the general managers at the Grove Park Inn, one of the gingerbread house judges and a participant who talks about her entry into the competition and what inspired her to create this special village.


0:25:56.2 Speaker 3: Grove Park Inn is home to the National Gingerbread House Competition. What began 20 years ago as a small regional exhibition has now become nationally known and people come from far and wide to see these incredible magical creations.


0:26:11.4 Speaker 4: And then looking right here for me. And then looking right here.


0:26:19.9 Speaker 5: They spend a lot of time putting these gingerbread houses together. And they're works of art. They really, really are. And their creativity, where they get some of their ideas, it's amazing.


0:26:39.0 Speaker 6: My mother in law is Chinese. We're very, very close. And I just wanted to make a replica of what would look like in the village where she grew up or she was born, just shrink it down, just pay respect to her.


0:26:51.8 Anna: And Lia, you've actually been there.


0:26:54.0 Lia: Yes, I have. So having grown up in East Tennessee, Asheville was just like a little skip away from us. And during the holidays, what's so fun about being in Asheville is you can go tour the Biltmore Estate, which is like the Hearst Castle of the East Coast. It's gorgeous. It's Anderson Cooper's family's house.


0:27:12.3 Anna: Just a little Vanderbilt.


0:27:13.9 Lia: Just a little Vanderbilt home, but it's all decorated. And so the Grove Park Inn is nearby. So if you wanted to do a whole holiday weekend, you could go spend it in Asheville, spend time at the Biltmore where it's all decorated. It smells good. They have gingerbread houses in there too. Then you can also get a pass and go view the gingerbread houses at the Inn. Now, I haven't been in years. So when I went, it was still like early, early on. And it was still quite impressive. But I can't imagine how it is now. People have become really savvy with their engineering for gingerbread houses.


0:27:44.9 Anna: Yeah.


0:27:45.7 Lia: It just, it looks insane when I see the pictures of the most recent year's entries.


0:27:49.8 Anna: It looks like you need a degree from RISD.


0:27:51.9 Lia: Yeah, exactly.


0:27:53.6 Anna: Or like you need to hire an architectural firm to design these things. They are crazy.


0:28:00.4 Lia: Well, there's one lady who has sort of dominated this gingerbread house competition in recent years. And her name is Beatrice Muller. And she's actually from Ontario. So she's somebody that's a little bit outside of the country who's come in. But Beatrice has taken home the top prizes in multiple years. She won her first time entering. She got first place. Yeah. With an entry called her dream house that took her 340 hours to make.


0:28:27.7 Anna: My goodness.


0:28:29.3 Lia: So this was in 2016. And since that time, Beatrice has been called the queen of gingerbread. She refers to herself as a gingerbread architect.


0:28:35.5 Anna: There you go.


0:28:36.5 Lia: Exactly. She has her own little business called Cakes by Beatrice, but she also runs another business called the Gingeneers. So she creates these gingerbread kits that you can purchase so you can build your own fantastic gingerbread house. But what I love about Beatrice's story is she was actually just a former high school teacher who loved baking and cake decorating and then decided to spend more time working on that. And her dream was really to enter one of these competitions. And she just, she never thought she could do it until one day she was chatting with her son. He's like, Mom, like, you're amazing. Go for it. And here she goes. She builds a dream house, drives it down.


0:29:13.0 Anna: Yeah.


0:29:15.2 Lia: Pulls it out of the car.


0:29:15.8 Anna: It survives the 95.


0:29:18.7 Lia: Oh, my gosh. Enters this competition and is the winner.


0:29:21.5 Anna: Amazing.


0:29:23.5 Lia: Yeah. And I just love that story, like it's never too late to pursue this thing that you love. And for her, it's being the queen of gingerbread. And now she's featured all over the place on Food Network, talking about building gingerbread houses. Bon Appetit did a great interview with her. And she really does make some incredible sculptures. Another thing that she created for the gingerbread house competition, like Anna, you were saying it's not just houses, she did an entire edible New York City and had little trains rolling through the cityscape. And it's just impressive.


0:29:58.9 Anna: That's incredible. She does sound like the queen.


0:30:02.0 Lia: She is the queen.


0:30:02.8 Anna: Yeah.


0:30:03.1 Lia: All hail Queen Beatrice, queen of the gingerbread.


0:30:06.2 Anna: One thing though is, so the rules are it has to be I think 80% gingerbread every entry and 100% edible. If it took 340 hours to make. You still want to eat that thing?


0:30:21.3 Lia: I mean, edible, it's pretty broad.


0:30:24.7 Anna: You could.


0:30:25.4 Lia: You could eat it.


0:30:27.1 Anna: Do you want to?


0:30:28.4 Lia: If you want to eat it. Maybe it's... What if you made one out of survival crackers?


0:30:32.3 Anna: Oh, my gosh. Yeah.


0:30:36.5 Lia: A survival cracker house.


0:30:36.4 Anna: That would last.


0:30:36.5 Lia: Perhaps the honey in it, you know.


0:30:38.1 Anna: Right. Honey never goes bad. Ginger never goes bad.


0:30:40.8 Lia: Just adds to like preserving the form.


0:30:44.6 Anna: You got it all lacquered in that royal icing.


0:30:47.4 Lia: Exactly. It's good.


0:30:48.8 Anna: I can see this. I can see this in my survival bunker.


0:30:51.1 Lia: Maybe that's it. Forget the crackers [chuckle] Come to my bunker. I have gingerbread for days.


0:30:58.5 Anna: You'd have the most atmospheric, festive survival bunker ever.


0:31:02.7 Lia: Yeah. Talk about bunker vibes.


0:31:07.1 Anna: I've got some hygge going on in my... [chuckle]


0:31:09.7 Lia: So cozy down here.


0:31:10.7 Anna: So cozy. Some fleas blankets. Very cool. Thanks for sharing this with us, Lia.


0:31:17.5 Lia: You're welcome. I mean, now I am just in the mood to eat up some gingerbread. Absolutely.




0:31:33.1 Speaker 7: Run, run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me. I'm the gingerbread man.


0:31:38.9 Speaker 8: You're a monster.


0:31:39.6 Speaker 7: I'm not a monster. Here you are. You and the rest of that fairy tale trash poisoning my perfect world. Now tell me, where are the others?


0:31:48.2 Speaker 8: Eat me.


0:31:49.2 Speaker 7: I've tried to be fair to you creatures. Now my patience has reached its end. Tell me or I'll.


0:31:57.6 Speaker 8: No, not the buttons. Not my gumdrop buttons.


0:32:00.1 Speaker 7: All right then. Who's...


0:32:00.2 Anna: So Lia, you gave us a really great background on gingerbread in all of its forms, but we're now going to dig into one form. The gingerbread house. We're going to build a foundation for our weird gingerbread house fetish.


0:32:17.3 Lia: It is kind of a fetish. Yeah. People are really into that.


0:32:20.8 Anna: We're really into it. And once I started looking at gingerbread houses, bigger picture, it's a great example of something that has become part of a lot of stuff. We talk about food is often the jumping off point, but it enters into all these different areas of our lives. Gingerbread houses, I know it sounds silly, but they're part of literature, architecture, some weird a** theme parks.


0:32:47.3 Lia: Oh, I can't wait, you guys.


0:32:47.5 Anna: The gingerbread house ruins across this globe will shake you to your core.


0:32:54.4 Lia: Oh my gosh. I'm excited.


0:32:56.9 Anna: So we're going to talk about a little bit of the background, how they got to be such a big deal, and then all the weird nooks and crannies that it's entered in our culture and why we're kind of obsessed with them.


0:33:05.9 Lia: Nice.


0:33:07.5 Anna: So as we mentioned earlier, gingerbread houses really became a thing because of the story Hansel and Gretel in a book called Grimm's Fairy Tales. I'm going to review what that is because I think we all kind of know the story. We know the background of the book, but there's some details in here that I think are really important.


0:33:25.8 Lia: Yeah, this is good. I mean, it's been a minute.


0:33:27.8 Anna: It's been a minute.


0:33:28.9 Lia: Since I've really heard the story.


0:33:31.2 Anna: It's all more disturbing than you remember.


0:33:32.1 Lia: Oh no.


0:33:32.9 Anna: I'll just tell you that.


0:33:33.7 Lia: Oh no.


0:33:36.2 Anna: Grimm's Fairy Tales was the first volume of what would eventually become a seven volume collection of German folktales published in December 1812 by two brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. And this first volume is basically like a greatest hits album. You got your Snow White, you got your Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, Rapunzel, the Golden Goose, Rumpelstiltskin, and of course Hansel and Gretel. The book was not well received at the beginning.


0:34:08.4 Lia: Oh, I wonder why.


0:34:09.7 Anna: Because, so a lot of folktales, a lot of stories to tell children had warnings in them. They had lessons in them. The point was kind of to use children's imaginations to teach them a lesson. The reviews or the response was saying, okay, what is this book? Who is it for? It's not for adults 'cause it's fairy tales, but it's not for kids 'cause it's so messed up. Eventually it became one of the most widely published, read and adapted works in history. It's considered a seminal work of Western culture and it's actually been included in the UNESCO's Memory of the World Registry.


0:34:47.7 Lia: Oh wow.


0:34:49.5 Anna: Which was a list created to track the intangible cultural heritage of humanity. So it's kind of a big deal.


0:34:58.7 Lia: Yeah.


0:35:00.6 Anna: So let's review the Hansel and Gretel plot.


0:35:02.9 Lia: Okay.


0:35:03.6 Anna: Come with me. Join me in medieval Germany. So the story is about a brother and sister, Hansel and Gretel, who live with their father and stepmother. The mother is dead, obviously.


0:35:10.7 Lia: Of course.


0:35:12.2 Anna: It's fairy tales.


0:35:13.0 Lia: Always.


0:35:14.9 Anna: The parents don't have enough food to feed their children, which is what happens when you restrict access to reproductive care.


0:35:20.6 Lia: Yep [chuckle]


0:35:23.2 Anna: See lots of lessons in here. So the stepmom convinces the dad to lead the kids out into the forest and leave them there to fend for themselves slash starve. But the kids hear them talking about this. So Hansel gets a bunch of little white stones and when the parents are leading them out into the forest, he drops them and makes a little trail. He can get back to the house and be like, surprise. Nice try, Jan. But the second time, Hansel drops breadcrumbs. And food scarcity is a thing. So the birds just go to town on the breadcrumbs, then they wait till nightfall and they can't find their way back to the house. They just start wandering and wandering in the forest, get hungrier and hungrier. And then they come upon a glorious cottage made of cake with like sugar panes of glass in the windows and whipped cream awnings, AKA A gingerbread house, AKA my dream home.


0:36:15.8 Lia: Exactly.


0:36:16.9 Anna: Hello. And these kids eat the house.


0:36:21.7 Lia: I mean, how could you not?


0:36:23.0 Anna: They go up, they smash the windows. They eat the glass panes. They start ripping off the roof tiles. They go to town on this house, except someone lives there. Oh, yeah. And it's a little old lady. And she's like, oh, my God, these poor children. They're so hungry. Come inside. I'll help you. I'll give you more food. Boom, in a cage.


0:36:44.9 Lia: Creepy.


0:36:45.6 Anna: So this was a trap. The sweet old lady was actually a witch. When the little dum dums fell into her trap, she likes to fatten up children and then eat them. Yep. She tries to fatten up Hansel for a while and is feeling his finger through the cage bars to see if he's gotten fatter. But he takes a chicken bone.


0:37:07.0 Lia: Yes, that's right.


0:37:09.2 Anna: And sticks it out. And she's like, dang, you're bony, literally. And has Gretel like help her around the house, I guess, or as like an apprenticeship. I'm not totally sure which one. But then finally, the witch is like, this is bullshit, I got to move on. I got to make space in my pantry. I'm just going to eat this kid. She turns on the oven. She asks Gretel to go in the oven and see if it's warm enough. And Gretel's like, I don't know. And so the witch climbs into the oven. Gretel closes the oven, turns it up to all the way. And the witch dies. So Gretel lets her brother out. And then these children loot the witch's house, which apparently is filled with like buckets of jewels and gold and sh**.


0:37:51.9 Lia: Oh, man.


0:37:53.0 Anna: Then they go back to their dad. I don't know how they found their way back this time.


0:37:55.3 Lia: Like they didn't find it the last time.


0:37:58.2 Anna: They couldn't find it last time. But I guess now what with the jewel? I don't know. They find their way back this time and get to the dad. But like, oops, the stepmama's died.


0:38:08.1 Lia: Uh oh.


0:38:10.6 Anna: No reason given. Now they are super rich with their loot. They can buy all the food they want. And they live happily ever after.


0:38:16.1 Lia: The end. What a story.


0:38:19.3 Anna: I'm not totally sure what the lessons are here. Don't wander in the woods. Don't eat houses that aren't yours.


0:38:26.3 Lia: Because if you're going to get a lesson, then Hansel and Gretel should have died.


0:38:31.7 Anna: Right?


0:38:32.5 Lia: Yeah.


0:38:33.7 Anna: Their parents dragged them out there. It wasn't like they wandered. It is full of all that fun misogyny. You know, we got the dead mother. We got a wicked stepmother.


0:38:41.5 Lia: Got a witch.


0:38:44.4 Anna: We got an evil, childless spinster. And you know, I'm not like 100% on the witch's side. But these kids ate her house.


0:38:51.0 Lia: They did eat her house.


0:38:53.3 Anna: You know, I know they were hungry, but like you can knock.


0:38:54.9 Lia: Just be like, like, hi. I saw you had some extra gumdrops here. Would you mind if we just took them? It's not a load bearing gumdrop.


0:39:04.4 Anna: I am fascinated by this witch. Why is her house filled with jewels? She seems like a successful businesswoman who's just had a second career. I would love to see a wicked version of the story.


0:39:15.7 Lia: Oh, that's good.


0:39:17.6 Anna: Like how wicked was told from the wicked witch's point of view. It would be from the gingerbread witch's point of view. I mean, there's a story here.


0:39:26.2 Lia: Oh, absolutely. We got to dig deep. Like, there's more to this.


0:39:29.3 Anna: You don't just wake up with a gingerbread house and a child in a cage. There's a journey here.


0:39:36.5 Lia: That doesn't just happen. I mean, it shouldn't just happen.


0:39:40.5 Anna: It doesn't just happen. So what's interesting to me about this story and how we get to the candy house, the gingerbread house is there's lots of common fairy tale elements. There's a forest. There's children in danger. There's magic or a fantastical element. There's a witch who might also be the hero. We don't know. But each of these stories that's in the Grimm's fairy tales that I listed has like their thing that makes it different. Like Snow White has the poison apple. And Little Red Riding Hood has the wolf. Rapunzel has her hair. And for this story, it's the candy house. It's the gingerbread house.


0:40:15.9 Lia: Yeah, you're right.


0:40:16.5 Anna: So that's why I think it's become emblematic of the story and inversely the story you immediately think of the house, right? The candy house. And there's some tension there between like the best thing you could hope for. Best case scenario. You're starving, you're wandering and you see a freaking house made of cake.


0:40:36.4 Lia: Made of... Yeah. All the good stuff.


0:40:38.3 Anna: The best thing of your most wildest dreams. And then a freaking nightmare.


0:40:43.8 Lia: It was too good to be true.


0:40:44.4 Anna: Poison Oasis is kind of how I think of it. And I think that tension is really fascinating and is something that we are drawn towards. It's like nothing comes without a price. Was it worth the risk? That kind of tension I think is something that we as humans really gravitate towards. One thing though is it does not specifically say gingerbread. In the story it says a house made of bread and cakes and later on it says the... It keeps calling it the bread house. But it was interpreted as a gingerbread house I think because gingerbread was already a tradition.


0:41:20.4 Lia: Got it. Yeah. Because I was thinking that it said gingerbread house. I always imagine it to be a gingerbread house.


0:41:26.0 Anna: Right. So even though it wasn't distinctly a gingerbread house, the popularity of the story really put gingerbread houses on the map. And the fact that this storybook was like in everyone's homes made it a more attainable thing. Because like you said, it used to be like back in the 1600s, 1700s, more of an elite thing. But now the spices are more common, sugar is more common, and everybody hears the story, it really becomes a household thing.


0:41:53.7 Lia: You know the story, you have the ingredients, you can make these.


0:41:56.6 Anna: Right. So yeah, there's so many versions of this. I found a film versions going back to 1909. A silent black and white short film.


0:42:05.8 Lia: Oh, creepy.


0:42:10.2 Anna: There's horror films, there's action films. There's one starring Jeremy Renner, I don't understand.


0:42:14.1 Lia: What?


0:42:14.1 Anna: There's comedies, there's TV movies, cartoons, musicals, and an opera we're going to talk about, which was a big deal. And the gingerbread house is always at the center of it. Especially like with the set design and the production value. It's all about the gingerbread house.


0:42:31.6 Lia: So the house is like a character.


0:42:32.7 Anna: Exactly. Because what other story has a freaking giant gingerbread house? This is your moment. You want to make a giant candy house set piece? It's now or never. However, I just have to give a shout out to my favorite Hansel and Gretel adaptation.


0:42:46.2 Lia: You have a favorite one. Okay.


0:42:48.2 Anna: Did you ever watch something called Once Upon a Brothers Grimm? It was one of those...


0:42:53.5 Lia: Oh, my gosh. Yes. Yes, yeah.


0:42:55.9 Anna: Yeah, it was one of those like late '70s, early '80s adaptations, like Shelley Long did fairy tale theater and things like that. It was one of those and it was like the Brothers Grimm are wandering through the forest and they come upon all the characters from their stories.


0:43:10.6 Lia: I think this is what I picture in my head when you tell the story. Yeah.


0:43:14.5 Anna: The gingerbread woman, that's her character's name. The gingerbread woman is played by Chita Rivera.


0:43:23.2 Lia: What?


0:43:23.3 Anna: Chita Rivera as the gingerbread witch people.


0:43:26.2 Lia: Amazing.


0:43:26.6 Anna: It is so classic. You can find it on YouTube. But she sings a song called I Love a Fat Man.


0:43:34.3 Lia: Hey.


0:43:34.7 Anna: She captures one of the brothers and ties him up and then she starts to fatten him up. So she has a song called I Love a Fat Man, the fatter the better they are. In full Chita Rivera, high kick, Broadway realness.


0:43:46.0 Lia: That's awesome. So everybody check that out. Once Upon a Brothers Grimm.




0:44:31.8 Anna: Probably the biggest, most significant adaptation was an opera. So an opera, Hansel and Gretel, I'm sorry, Hansel und Gretel.




0:44:50.4 Anna: The music was by German composer, Engelbert Humperdinck and the libretto by German writer, Adelaide Wette, who were brother and sister.


0:45:02.0 Lia: Oh, I didn't know that.


0:45:03.0 Anna: Right? What sweet irony. That the opera of Hansel and Gretel was written by a brother and sister.


0:45:09.7 Lia: A brother and sister.


0:45:10.6 Anna: Careful kids. So this was first performed in Weimar, Germany at Christmas in 1893 conducted by Richard Strauss. And in the opera, the character is called the gingerbread witch. And there's a scene at the beginning where the father actually warns the children that the gingerbread witch lives in the woods, the woods that he later takes them to.


0:45:37.9 Anna: And that she puts kids in the oven and they turn into gingerbread and she eats them. So if people didn't already associate this story with gingerbread, this big top box office opera totally solidified that. The popularity of the story fed to the popularity of the gingerbread houses themselves, as we said, and because people would make gingerbread cookies and figures near Christmas, the gingerbread house got associated with Christmas as well. You already know how to make the gingerbread.


0:46:04.5 Lia: Yeah.


0:46:04.6 Anna: And what's interesting is sometimes the gingerbread house got mixed in to the fantasy elements of Christmas.


0:46:13.2 Lia: Oh, okay.


0:46:13.4 Anna: Yeah. So I saw a lot of things that were like a gingerbread house at the North Pole.


0:46:17.5 Lia: Yes, you're right.


0:46:19.1 Anna: Yeah. So those things kind of blend. Not that the North Pole isn't real and Santa's up there. I'm just saying.


0:46:25.6 Lia: Exactly.


0:46:26.2 Anna: I'm just saying. Okay. So we've got gingerbread houses are in people's homes. They're making them. It's part of the holidays now. It's part of the pop culture, all these adaptations. But there's something else that gingerbread influenced that I think is so fascinating. And I don't think we've ever talked about on Food Day. Gingerbread houses actually started to influence architecture and architecture was influencing the gingerbread houses people were making.


0:46:48.1 Lia: What?


0:46:53.2 Anna: Isn't that crazy? In the 1800s, there was an architectural movement called Gothic Revival, which meant that people were getting nostalgic for Gothic elements. You know, if you think of Notre Dame or Westminster Abbey, those are iconic Gothic structures. Things like the arches and stained glass and the big domes.


0:47:10.0 Lia: A buttress.


0:47:10.9 Anna: The buttress, the flying buttresses, right? So that was going on in Europe. And then in America, there was a big housing boom, especially in the northeast and moving into the Midwest. We have a ton of wood. So you start seeing this carpenter style, which is instead of bricks on the outside of houses, you see like the long planes of wood. It's very clearly made out of wood. Those Gothic touches started making their way into the American houses as well, which is how we get carpenter Gothic style.


0:47:37.5 Lia: Interesting.


0:47:41.0 Anna: Yeah. So especially things like very pointy roofs and arched windows and ornate decorating. This movement was mostly people's houses and churches. So it was where people lived. And so the gingerbread houses that were being made, it totally makes sense. People started making them like an image of the houses where they lived. So gingerbread houses started looking more like these carpenter Gothic real houses. But then there was all the ornate icing and decorating, right? It's crucial. There were new saws being made, like jigsaws and scroll saws. So it made it possible to create those designs and all that decoration out of wood and be added to the houses.


0:48:26.9 Lia: That's a good point. You now have tools that allow you to be able to do these intricate designs, like really get in there, make some fine lines.


0:48:36.7 Anna: All those curly Q's. So that decoration started being added to the real houses and it is actually called gingerbread trim. So gingerbread trim is an actual architectural style and it's integral to the carpenter Gothic movement.


0:48:53.0 Lia: That's so crazy. I didn't even know that it had that term, but when I picture this style in my head and I'm picturing gingerbread houses, it makes sense.


0:49:03.0 Anna: One famous example, there is a neighborhood that's referred to as the gingerbread houses on Martha's Vineyard. It was a neighborhood called Oaks Bluff. And in the 1800s, Methodists would gather in this area for annual religious retreats. And they had it as sort of like a camping ground. They'd set up temporary structures, but then they decided to actually build a community there in the 1880s. Which is exactly when this is all going down. And they built in the carpenter Gothic style with the gingerbread trim. And now they are all summer cottages that you can rent, but they are these candy colored, fantastical looking buildings.


0:49:38.5 Lia: Oh my gosh.


0:49:38.9 Anna: They look like big old gingerbread houses. However, not all the structures in the gingerbread style are beautiful. When I started looking at gingerbread houses, all these things started coming up about haunted gingerbread houses and abandoned gingerbread houses. So there are a lot of structures built to look like gingerbread or candy houses as part of a fantasy world or a scheme. But then they kind of get abandoned and become decrepit. They decay, but they're still standing. People leave them up because there is that tension with the gingerbread, the candy house, right? It's both a dream and a nightmare.


0:50:19.3 Lia: Nightmare.


0:50:22.7 Anna: There are a few that I want to point out. One is the gingerbread castle in Hamburg, New Jersey.


0:50:34.5 Lia: In Jersey.


0:50:34.5 Anna: In Jersey. So this was originally built for a fairy tale themed amusement park designed in 1928 by Austrian architect and set designer Joseph Urban. And it was commissioned by an eccentric billionaire. Of course. Who else? FH Bennett, owner of the FH Bennett Biscuit Company.


0:50:54.0 Lia: Well, there you go.


0:50:56.6 Anna: I wonder if he became part of Nabisco or one of those conglomerates.


0:51:00.9 Lia: You know that he and Adolphus were probably in cahoots with one another at some point.


0:51:06.8 S?: That's a callback.


0:51:07.8 Anna: Bennett, get this, had seen a production of the opera Hansel and Gretel at the New York Metropolitan Opera, which Urban had designed the sets for, including the giant gingerbread house set, which FH Bennett became obsessed with and commissioned Urban to build him a real one.


0:51:31.8 Lia: Wow.


0:51:31.9 Anna: It's all connected. And it was actually open from the 1930s to the 1980s. And then it started to fall into disrepair. It was bought or leased by a bunch of different people sequentially who all said they were going to restore it to its former glory. And it had been everything from like a haunted house to an 80s nightclub. So it's seen some things. It's seen some things. And then it was sort of let to decay seriously for like 30 years, along with the abandoned paper mill that is also on the property.


0:52:00.9 Lia: There's also a paper mill?


0:52:02.5 Anna: There's an abandoned paper mill next to...


0:52:05.4 Lia: The gingerbread house.


0:52:07.2 Anna: The gingerbread castle.


0:52:07.5 Lia: Wow.


0:52:08.9 Anna: When I was doing research on the gingerbread castle, I found a ton of YouTube videos by ghost hunters.


0:52:19.9 Lia: Oh, okay.


0:52:21.0 Anna: Yes. Yeah. Well. Ghost hunters would go to the gingerbread castle, they'll break in and they'll film the inside of the castle. And they'll tell these stories about someone who was allegedly murdered there because of unrequited love and still haunts the place and yada, yada, yada. But you don't need those ghost stories. Because this place is creepier than you could ever imagine. You guys, I cannot unsee these YouTube videos.


0:52:45.8 Lia: Oh no.


0:52:46.7 Anna: Here's a clip from a channel called the Unknown Cameraman. Mr. Cameraman was ghost hunting and ran into a dad who used to go to the gingerbread castle as a kid. And he actually broke in that same day to show his teenage daughters the place. And here he describes what the castle was like in its glory days.


0:53:06.3 Speaker 9: You said you actually came here as a kid.


0:53:09.7 Speaker 10: Yeah.


0:53:10.3 Speaker 9: That's awesome.


0:53:10.4 Speaker 10: Sure. I brought my daughter and her friends up here today to see the old gingerbread castle. Now as a child, and I'm probably going back, probably like kindergarten, first grade around then, so this would have been the 1960s.


0:53:24.0 Speaker 10: This was open to the public. And they had a sign here and it would say, children, don't touch the castle it's made out of gingerbread. The roof is made out of icing and it's magical. And if you touch it, it'll turn into stone. And there was a deer pen somewhere outside over here where they gave you carrots to feed the deer with. And inside was, I guess there was little gifts and stuff like that. But all I remember was gingerbread and hot chocolate that you'd enjoy. You know what I mean? Kids, come back.


0:54:00.6 Speaker 11: We are taking a picture grandpa...


0:54:01.2 Speaker 10: I don't want to be arrested.


0:54:04.5 Anna: Before we move on, just one more thing about the interior designer architect, Joseph Urban. Joseph Urban went on to design the interiors of many illustrious American buildings in the 20th century. But there was one that stood out to me. And Lia, I want to see if you can guess what it is.


0:54:20.8 Lia: Oh, no.


0:54:22.9 Anna: Here's some clues. Shout it out if you guess it. It was built in 1927 as a massive private estate for an eccentric billionairess.


0:54:32.9 Lia: Oh geez.


0:54:37.0 Anna: In Palm Beach, Florida. It is done in a Spanish Moorish style.


0:54:40.4 Lia: Oh no.


0:54:41.1 Anna: It was bought in 1995 and turned into a resort and golf club. F**king Mar-a-Lago.


0:54:52.2 Lia: No way.


0:54:54.7 Anna: Another poisoned oasis.


0:54:56.2 Lia: There we go. No way.


0:54:58.5 Anna: That's right, everyone. The designer of the haunted decaying gingerbread fucking castle is also the designer of motherf**king Mar-a-Lago.


0:55:11.6 Lia: This is too crazy, but yet it makes sense.


0:55:15.4 Anna: Total sense. It makes total sense. I had to reread that three times and then I was like, no, yeah, that tracks.


0:55:18.2 Lia: What? That's insane.


0:55:21.2 Anna: And you know what it has? It has like 58 bedrooms and 36 bathrooms and whatever, whatever. Three bomb shelters.


0:55:33.2 Lia: Of course. Not one, not two, but three.


0:55:36.0 Anna: Well you got to have one for the help.


0:55:38.0 Lia: Oh yeah. And that has to be the one furthest away.


0:55:40.4 Anna: Furthest away, shallowest, shortest air supply. Then you have the one for the horses, I assume.


0:55:48.3 Lia: Obvs.


0:55:48.4 Anna: And then you have ones for corgis and humans. Yeah. I guess the help are also human, but I'm sorry. I was in that Mar-a-Lago mentality right there.


0:55:55.0 Lia: Oh you're went the Mar-a-Lago mode, right?


0:55:57.7 Anna: The Mar-a-Lago thought process. Another is the Sky Park at Santa's Village in Lake Arrowhead, California. And y'all, I think this one is cursed.


0:56:07.7 Lia: Oh my gosh.


0:56:10.5 Anna: Santa's Village was built in 1955. It opened six months before Disneyland. It's older than Disneyland. And it was supposed to be a year round Christmas themed amusement park, complete with reindeer rides, monorail, visits with Santa, and of course, a gingerbread house.


0:56:27.6 Lia: No Santa's Village is complete.


0:56:28.1 Anna: Without a gingerbread house somehow. But it was just like in a forest. It was open for 23 years, but then went bankrupt. Another company took it over in 1998, then they went bankrupt. Then in 2003, there was a giant wildfire.


0:56:45.3 Lia: Oh, this was cursed.


0:56:49.9 Anna: It was totally cursed. But then a new family took the area over and they built something called Sky Park. So they put in hiking trails, mountain biking trails, zip lines, et cetera. For it to be like an outdoor activity park. But they left the bird ass Santa's Village there. So they didn't clear it out or anything? They didn't clear it out. They just left the cremains of Santa's Village. They may have repaired some of them. But in the pictures, it doesn't look like it, y'all. And there is a rotted gingerbread house that's all like smoke stained.


0:57:23.3 Lia: Oh, no.


0:57:24.8 Anna: Can you imagine you're like, it's a beautiful day. I'm going to go for a hike. Look at the squirrels. This feels like a good college photography assignment.


0:57:35.0 Lia: Oh, yeah. A little black and white abandoned Santa's Village.


0:57:38.7 Anna: Definitely a photo essay in there. And then the last one I'll tell you about is the Eftelig Fantasyland Park in the Netherlands. So this is actually an open operating fantasy theme park.


0:57:51.0 Lia: Oh, okay.


0:57:53.3 Anna: There is a Hansel and Gretel in the forest where you follow a little trail into the forest. And then you come upon the giant gingerbread house that is like a life size model of a house complete with Hansel in a cage. There is a model of Hansel in a cage sticking his little chicken bone out.


0:58:12.9 Lia: His little chicken bone. Oh, my God.


0:58:13.8 Anna: Little chicken bone. And Gretel just sitting there.


0:58:18.9 Lia: That's terrifying.


0:58:21.5 Anna: It gets better. In their hotel.


0:58:23.4 Lia: Oh, no.


0:58:24.4 Anna: There is a Hansel and Gretel suite.


0:58:27.3 Lia: This is... Oh, my God.


0:58:27.5 Anna: Well, the furniture looks like it's made out of gingerbread with candy stuck on it. Here's my favorite part. The suite features a puppet theater.


0:58:34.2 Lia: What the heck?


0:58:35.7 Anna: So you can put on your little puppet shows.


0:58:38.9 Lia: This is so scary.


0:58:40.7 Anna: But that means it's intended for children to go in it.


0:58:42.0 Lia: Is this like the punishment if you've been bad we're taking you to this theme park?


0:58:49.1 Anna: Yeah. And we're putting you in the gingerbread suite and we're leaving you there.


0:58:50.9 Lia: Oh, my God. That is so creepy.


0:58:53.2 Anna: That's a little bit about our weird ass gingerbread house obsession.


0:58:57.1 Lia: Oh, my gosh.


0:59:00.1 Anna: And how it all came from a seductive and disturbing children's story.


0:59:05.7 Lia: Wow. Thanks, Brothers Grimm. Oh, my gosh. That was great, Anna.


0:59:09.7 Anna: Thank you.


0:59:11.2 Lia: I'll never look at a gingerbread house the same way ever again.


0:59:13.8 Anna: You better not.




0:59:22.0 Anna: So that's it for 2022.


0:59:22.5 Lia: What a year.


0:59:23.5 Anna: What a year.


0:59:26.6 Lia: Our poison oasis of a year.


0:59:31.4 Anna: Thanks for listening, everybody. We love you. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Happy New Year.


0:59:36.5 Lia: Thank you, listeners. Thanks for being here and being a part of our Food Day family. This has been so fun telling you all all of these great stories and getting to share the cool things that we've discovered, the cool stories, the scandals. Who knew? Who knew that there were so many crimes?


0:59:52.2 Anna: Definitely a highlight of 2022. Thank you, everyone.




1:00:06.4 Lia: Thank you for joining us for this episode of Every Day is a Food Day. Be sure to follow the show and catch up on past episodes wherever you get your podcasts. Connect with us on social media at Food Day Pod. Join our mailing list through our website, yumday.co/podcast. And don't forget to leave us that rating and review.


1:00:24.5 Anna: Clips and music you heard today were from Kraft in America on PBS, The Unknown Cameraman on YouTube, Once Upon a Brothers Grimm from Rothman Wohl Productions, Hansel & Gretel performed by the Stratzkapelle Dresden, Shrek from DreamWorks Animation. Special thanks to Brandon Ballentine, Lou Adesso, Marty, Nazare and Fang. Every Day is a Food Day is a production of Van Valin Productions and Yumday. It is produced and hosted by us, Lia Ballentine and Anna Van Valin.