Ginger and Gingerbread

here.

Timeline:

55 BC – 407 AD The Romans used ginger in large quantities but more for its medicinal than culinary properties.

407 – 1066 AD The Anglo-Saxons certainly valued spices, ginger is amongst those listed amongst the prized supply left by the Venerable Bede on his death in 735, but it would not have been in widespread usage.

1066 – The Norman Conquest – marks the earliest references to Pain d’Epices, the French Gingerbread.

C15th – The Crusaders brought back many spices and the use of ginger became almost as common as pepper, in both sweet and savoury dishes, at least in wealthy circles.  The gingerbread made at this time (note that it did not always include ginger) was served at court and on ceremonial occasions, made in elaborate mounds and gilded with gold leaf.  Smaller versions, often shaped as men or pigs, were sold at fairs and known as “fairings”.  Gingerbread at this time was made from breadcrumbs and honey.

C16th & C17th – Breadcrumbs were replaced with flour or oatmeal and treacle replaced honey (a distinguishing ingredient of pain d’epices). Butter and eggs became popular additions and in the C17th white Gingerbread became fashionable especially in the East Midlands (e.g. Ashbourne Gingerbread).

C18th & C19th – Towns and villages throughout the north of England became associated with their own version of gingerbread.

Bibliography

The Taste of Britain – Laura Mason and Catherine Brown (Harper Press 2006)

Good Things in England– Florence White (The Cookery Book Club 1932)

The Oxford Companion to Food– Alan Davidson (Oxford University Press 1999)

The Gingerbread Ladies– Jack Hallam (John Siddall 1979)

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