The Not So Holly Jolly History of Gingerbread

According to culinary historian Tori Avey, the earliest gingerbread recipes can be traced back to 2400 B.C. The hardened cookies we think of today, however, didn’t come about until the Middle Ages in Europe, when gingerbread cookies became a staple of local fairs. Gingerbread cookies tended to change shape depending on the season; birds were common in the fall, for example, as were flowers in the spring. But the cookies were also often shaped like animals or royalty, and it wasn’t uncommon for nobility to dress their cookies up with gold leaf in addition to icing. Queen Elizabeth I is usually cited as the first to make what we might recognize as a gingerbread man. Legend has it that when foreign dignitaries came to visit her, she had some cookies decorated to resemble her guests. Rather than being associated with Christmas, gingerbread cookies were largely synonymous with wealth and prosperity; the cookie’s decoration was more highlighted than the season in which it was served. […]

The world’s oldest-known recipes decoded

A team of international scholars versed in culinary history, food chemistry and cuneiform studies has been recreating dishes from the world’s oldest-known recipes. The evolution of a lamb stew, me-e puhadi, is still prevalent in Iraq today.  The evolution of a lamb stew, me-e puhadi, is still prevalent in Iraq today (Credit: Credit: The Yarvin Kitchen/Alamy) The instructions for lamb stew read more like a list of ingredients than a bona fide recipe: “Meat is used. You prepare water. You add fine-grained salt, dried barley cakes, […]

No, vanilla ice cream didn’t used to be black

Vanilla ice cream used to be black, but racism turned it white, according to a Facebook post that credits someone’s grandmother as the source for this tidbit of supposed culinary history. “My grandma lived to be 102,” the May 15 post says. “She told us in her days, the […]

Pie Fidelity: In Defence of British Food review – no need to scoff

In Pie Fidelity, the author uses this sense of personal division as the basis for a wider exploration of Britain’s food culture, which he suggests is riven along similar lines – between its historical, working-class roots and a newfangled obsession with exoticism.