Certain smells just evoke Christmas memories and there’s nothing like freshly baked gingerbread wafting through your home to give you that warm and fuzzy feeling of the holiday. Gingerbread has become part of our holiday traditions and there’s much more to this festive little food than just those cute little houses.

The word “gingerbread” comes from the Old French “gigembras,” which means “gingered food.” In Middle English the term became “gyngebreed,” and that evolved into “gingerbread.” Today, we use “gingerbread” to describe a range of sweet treats that combine ginger with honey, treacle, or molasses.

Food historians trace the origins of gingerbread back to the ancient Egyptians, who used it for ceremonial purposes. The ancient Greeks followed suit with the first known recipe for gingerbread around 2400 B.C. But we have monks from the Middle Ages to thank for the idea of using gingerbread for decorative designs. After creating a paste of breadcrumbs, honey, and ginger, and rolling the mixture out, the monks often carved biblical scenes or images of saints before baking it. They then used these gingerbread treats as a way to feed the hungry and offer some religious teaching at the same time.

Over time, the custom caught on and gingerbread cookies in the shape of animals, flowers, birds, or kings and queens became a common sight at medieval fairs throughout Europe. Queen Elizabeth I even ordered gingerbread cookies made to resemble the dignitaries visiting her court. These royal cookies often featured elaborate gold leaf designs and intricate details. We still call the fancy architectural details on Victorian-era houses “gingerbread.”

The holiday custom of baking and decorating gingerbread houses began in the 16th century in Germany, where elaborately decorated gingerbread cookie-walled houses began showing up in bakery shop windows. But it was after the well-known Grimm’s fairytale “Hansel and Gretel” was published in 1912, where two lost children discover a house deep in the forest that is built entirely of treats, that German bakers began baking ornamented fairytale houses made from gingerbread. This tradition was brought to America and became popular during the Christmas season.

The 12th of December is Gingerbread House Day in the United States so get your gingerbread house kit and have some fun decorating!

The Friendship Café is open for indoor dining, takeout, curbside pick-up and delivery. We are open Monday through Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Main entree, $7. Comes with a vegetable or fruit, bread and dessert.

Friday, Dec. 3: Center closed.

Monday, Dec. 6: Goulash.

Tuesday, Dec. 7: Swiss Steak.

Wednesday, Dec. 8: Unforgettable Chicken Casserole.

Thursday, Dec. 9: Ribs and Sauerkraut.

Soup and Sandwich (Ham or Turkey) w/fruit, $6.50. Turkey or Ham Wrap w/cup of soup or salad, $8. Chef Salad or Taco Salad w/bread, $8.

All applicable taxes are included in prices. For payment we take cash or check.

Senior meal delivery program: If you are a senior citizen located in Isanti County and interested in delivery, call us at (763-689-6555) the night before or the morning of, between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Please state your name, phone number and address.

Package deal: You can order fresh, hot meals to be delivered to your home Monday thru Thursday for $27.50/week. This includes an extra bag on Thursday containing soup, bread, and fruit for your weekend meal. Please call by Sunday and leave a message, including your name, phone number and address, to place your meal package order for the following week (763-689-6555).

The Senior Activity Center is located at 140 Buchanan St. N., Suite 164, Cambridge, 763-689-6555.

Load comments