A confectionery tale
Once upon a time, in a time not so very long ago, a messenger or two brought glad tidings of great joy.
“Oh, Yoo-Hoo, Oftabakin! In a village nearby The Historical Society shall soon choose the best gingerbread. Send your gingerbread as the best.”
Man, oh man, replied Oftabakin. Cakewalk.
And over the clatter of baking pans in and out of the oven, much like the clatter of hooves of twelve tiny reindeer on the roofs, Oftabakin heard ‘historical’ and ‘gingerbread’ and as these were great words, among her favorite words, she smiled with delight. For like ‘chocolate’ and ‘peanut butter’, some great words are even more great together.
So she cleaned up the kitchen and got out the historical books and the gingerbread books and made a study of historical gingerbread.
She discovered all sorts of strange and wonderful ways to spell gingerbread:
Blah blah blah
She found that honey was very common and then – like magic – sugar replaced it, only to later be replaced by molasses. Except that sugar never went completely away and in some places and cases came back stronger than ever.
That not all gingerbread had ginger in it.
That gingerbread was pressed and rolled and cut and caked and iced and frosted and gilded, served hot and cold and could be crispy/crunchy or soft and even gooey.
The more she studied gingerbread the more fascinating it became.
And so Oftabakin made lists and notes in margins and scribbled on different colored sticky papers and stuck the papers out of the books and on the sides of the fridge, and had to re-write several of the things she wrote for she could barely read her own handwriting.
And she slept on it and dreamed sweet angel dreams.
Gingerbread angel mold – 17th century
She made charts and lists and other charts….and then she saw the time, and it was time to bake.
So she shopped, for she had a mighty list.
Oftabakin checked and double checked the bowls and mixers and pans, and removed boughs and boughs of holly to clear the decks.
Decks cleared, she commenced a-measuring and a-mixing. Stirring, folding, warming, cooling, dropping, spreading, smoothing, timing.
A-baking. A-humming. Fa la la la la la la la la.
The kitchen was alive with the fragrance of sugar and spice and everything nice and the sound of angelic harps, very Celtic it seemed, but then they would be.
Oftabakin tasted the gingerbread and the gingerbread was good.
When Oftabakin said Cakewalk, she thought that the Historical Society wanted plates of gingerbread, to judge the gingerbread and choose the best gingerbread. Like a real cakewalk.
So she went to their magical website to get an entry form and directions and to see if she needed particular plates to serve it on, and would they need a copy of the recipes, for she had decided to make FOUR gingerbreads, to demonstrate Four Hundred Years of Gingerbread History on one plate. History you could eat.
What The Historical Society wanted was….
(Duh duh DUUUHHHHH)
Oftabakin was many things, and when not a-baking could be a-gardening or a-cleaning or even a-humming, but Oftabakin was not a carpenter.
Oh, sure she knew the difference between a thwart saw and a sawzall, a screwdriver and a screw, timber framing and balloon framing – although that there were no actual balloons involved in balloon framing was the source of perpetual disappointment for her and a real shortcoming for carpentry in general she thought.
So she sharpened her knives and disinfected a T-square and covered the correct sized base with tin foil and made gobs and gobs of royal icing and got a pastry bag with different tips and cutters in different shapes and candies in different colors and went to work.
Hard hats were now required in the kitchen.
This is a Martha Stewart Gingerbread House. It bears no resemblance to any house in this story.
The list of things that Oftabakin was not continued to grow.
Not a construction worker.
Not an engineer.
Not an ice cubes chance in you-know-where for a career in fancy pastry work, either.
This is not the actual house under construction. It is a re-created facsimile….minus the royal icing and gumdrops – and it is standing up straighter…..
And when it was done, she took some photos of The Little House, made with 4 kinds of gingerbread. And copious amounts of royal icing. And gumdrops. With a little Gingerbread Man.
“But the lightening isn’t very good,” Oftabakin said to herself. “I can’t find the good side of this house.”
“It’s not the lighting, Toots”, said the Gingerbread Man. “It’s the House. It doesn’t have a good side. Well, it does – INSIDE…someone’s mouth”
Great. Of All the Gingerbread Men in All the World, Oftabakin managed to make one who was also a Wise Guy.
But daylight was burning, delivery had to be made, so the house and the icing and the gumdrops and the mouthy G-Man were all packed up and maps came out and it was time to roll.
On the highways and byways, the roll came to a sudden stop – there was an accident ahead. “Hey, Toots,” said the G-Man, “That’s not the only accident on this road – look in this box.”
Before Oftabakin could answer, she saw a sign, a sign that had colors and shapes that spoke of the Sunrise and the Sunset, and she was drawn to it, so she pulled off the highways and closer to the sign. “What would you like?” asked the Sign, and Oftabakin told the Sign.
Oftabakin had a Gingerbread Coffee and it was good. Oftabakin liked her coffee with cream, and no sugar, for she was sweet enough just the way God made her. Sometimes a little sugar on the side made coffee even better. So she reached to box with the Little House and picked up the G-Man and dunked his head into the coffee.
And it was good. And he was quiet. At last and for always.
And then she went home, for she realized the gingerbread was never meant to go away, but was something she could share with her own Village.
And so she took apart the house and made plates of the four different gingerbreads and shared them.
And the Villagers said, “This is Good.”