Gingerbread: Food or Art?

I happened to tune in to the Food Channel tonight and saw a great program on the Grove Park Inn’s Annual Gingerbread Contest. As I watched these people constructing these amazingly ornate structures out of candy and confections alone, I had to wonder:

Is gingerbread as art just a cruel joke?

There is no doubt in my mind that the structures I saw built tonight were art. I even watched as one woman spent a good deal of time sculpting a perfect, tiny teapot out of almond paste to place on the similarly perfect and tiny stove in her gingerbread house’s very well equipped kitchen. She made all of these edible items by hand. Could you, in good conscience, eat her teapot? I don’t think so.

I still have a photo of a gingerbread house that I made when I was about 12 years old. It was a standard Cape Cod style home, covered with white frosting, decorated with gumdrops and featuring a Graham Cracker front door bordered by two proud candy canes. We had to take a picture of it because my family was ready to eat it as soon as the last gumdrop was placed. I don’t mind that they ate it though. Who wants to keep a stale cake lying around the house?

Yes, I am a firm believer in the gingerbread house as food theory.

A gingerbread house, however ornate should understand that to fulfill its destiny, it must be eaten. I believe that people who make gingerbread houses as art should call them that – candy art. Don’t confuse the children by calling it gingerbread, which they know full well they should be able to eat. Call it what it is.

As for me, I plan to build attractive yet tasty gingerbread houses with my children. I’m a firm believer in the gingerbread layer-cake construction. (Nobody likes a pretty face with no substance!) We’ll use a solid cake base in a Cape Cod or Ranch style while the kids are young. As they get older, we can move up to Victorian styles and specialty structures. Unlike these people on the Food Channel, the joy in creating this house won’t be in the perfection of design and decoration for me. My joy will come from spending hours with my children, playing with candy and just being together.

Who cares if our gingerbread house turns out to be a broken-down shack with no doors? We’ll make precious memories of constructing it together and then enjoy eating it. Who needs art when you’ve got all that?

For a great Gingerbread House you can make yourself, click here!