Sunday, December 19, 2010


I waver on my opinions of traditions.  In our family, a Christmas tradition is to make gingerbread men.  And not any ordinary gingerbread men.  This tradition dates back to my great grandfather (and beyond) - Harry Smith was a highly talented mechanical engineer and, from all reports, a completely wonderful man - full of fun and mischief.  In the top picture you can see the trappings of our tradition - my GGF's handmade cookie cutter (complete with holes in those tricky corners so you can poke out the dough), the original Gingerbread Man typed poem that inspired everything, typed on my GGF's letterhead, the gingerbread recipe written in my Great Aunt Edie's unmistakable loopy handwriting, the layout of the icing, and the matchsticks that are used to poke out those pesky sticky hat brims. 

The "Accoutrements".

The genius behind our tradition.
I first started baking these guys with my Great Aunt Edie, back in Cleveland.  She was very rigid about proper gingerbreadmanship.  No jaunty tilts to hat brims or feet.  Not too thick.  Not too thin.  No googly eyes (cloves).  And while we whipped up the 4 dozen ginger boys (as she called them), she would drill me on state capitols.  After Edie died, the tradition moved to me and my mom.  It is a very fun afternoon of working together - she gets everything organized and cuts the cloves (a dreaded job) and we work in unison - me mixing, rolling out and cutting; she places facial features and clove eyes.  My dad's job is to ice them.  To strict instructions.

This year it all fell apart.  I have been having a difficult time with Christmas this year, and I found myself standing for hours in my kitchen doing the rolling, cutting, baking and the *&#*$ cloves.  Alone.  It was not fun.  But, after whining and muttering for an hour, I started to focus on years past and it turned out to be a work of love.  However, my Great Aunt Edie must have been twirling in the afterlife - I had thick, thin, goofy, googly ginger boys.  And I even forgot to complete the required facial features on the last four.  Ack!
(from right: too jaunty, too fat, just right.)
The alpaca cookie is for my friend Kay.


The Apple Pie Gal said...

How do they taste? Cuz if they are rejects...I'll take'em! :oD

I think they look lovely! And you are a real trooper to plod thru it all! Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

It's amazing how we cuss out some traditions, but if we stopped, it just wouldn't be the same. And I love all your family keepsakes (the poem, the recipe, etc)

Mama Pea said...

Well, poop. Nothing stays the same but change. I'm so glad you feel you could vent a little (in your sweet way) here to all of us.

Just so you know, if it had been possible, I would have sat and cut cloves for you, and talked, and sipped wine, and helped in other ways. Except I'm not a good decorator so you might not have wanted to let me do that.

thecrazysheeplady said...

Great story. Even the "bad" parts ;-).