This week the National Gingerbread House Competition takes place down in Asheville, North Carolina at the historical Grove Park Inn. Hundreds of edible and decorative concoctions will fill the resort’s Grand Ballroom, to be displayed until January 6, 2007. The grand prize winner and selected other winners will appear on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Friday, December 22.
Gingerbread dates from the Middle Ages when Crusaders brought back ginger, sugars, almonds and citrus fruits from the Near East. Catholic monks started to bake gingerbread for Saints’ Day, often using saints and religious symbols in their concoctions. ("A Gingerbread Tradtion," Journal of Antiques and Collectibles, December 2000)
Cooks in the more secular 17th and 18th centuries baked gingerbread into the shape of lords and ladies, soldiers, castles and sometimes flowers or geometric patterns. By the late 19th century, when Christmas became more commercial, no bakery window was without a gingerbread house.
If you would like to try your hand at this ancient art, great instructions and good links are available at About.com -- Gingerbread Houses. Or check out:
Making Gingerbread Houses: Dozens of Delectable Designs and Ideas by Veronika Alice Gunter.
Making Great Gingerbread Houses: Delicious Designs From Cabins to Castles, From Lighthouses to Tree Houses by Aaron Morgan.
Gingerbread Houses: A Complete Guide to Baking, Building and Decorating by Patti Falzarano.