Ginger-free

By

SEND your gingerbread over the waters and in a few days it will come home. This paraphrase is not in jest, but confirms what Koheleth has already stated -- it happened, and an old New England oddity surfaces again to prove something or other. Sue and Carl Mueller live on the other side of Back River from us. Half a mile over the water, maybe; a little too far for reading fine print but we look into each other's dooryard, and if I leave my cellar light on they call to suggest I turn it off.

Well, Sue heard that my cook and our daughter had gone by choo-choo from Montreal to Vancouver to aid in the resurgence of the Canadian dollar, and she suggested I come for supper. I thought that was a sound plan, and I arrived just as she brought the poultry from the oven.

Pertinent to this narrative is that the Muellers moved to Maine from New Jersey a few years back, and accordingly would not be aware of Angel Gingerbread. Anybody indigenous to New England would know about it. Angel Gingerbread is well seasoned in down east lore, even if most of its fans have forgotten how it became so. Anyway, Carl deployed the chicken, Sue added the vegetables, and we tucked away a genteel sufficiency until we had lost our appetites. Then, Sue brought on a delicious gingerbread, to be anointed before ingestion with a lemony sauce. During ingestion, I lifted my voice in a joyous paean and added the remark, ``And it's got ginger in it!''

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The Muellers considered me in sorrow, grieved that my mentality had fuzzed until I would cheer ginger in gingerbread, so I assured them that my remark was by no means odd and uncalled for. Gingerless gingerbread, I told them, is quite all right, and I repeated (again) the much-told story:

For a century or so the Boston Post was ``the great breakfast table newspaper of New England.'' Contributing to its big circulation was the popularity of its household section, to which the women of New England were devoted. The editor had a sinecure, because every morning he would get mailbags of letters from the housekeepers of New England, who sent him recipes and household hints until he was spared any effort on his part to find copy. He had a self-perpetuating department, with a folksy readership from Stamford to Madawas-ka, from Rutland to Eastport. Somebody told me once that it was in 1914 that a woman up in the Sebasticook Valley somewhere sent in her recipe for Angel Gingerbread, and it was first printed in the Post.

And as with any recipe offered by the Post, the next day almost every kitchen in New England tried it out and Angel Gingerbread became the favorite gingerbread of the region. Letters came by the gross to praise it. When some of those letters were printed, women who had missed the original wrote in asking to have it repeated. So maybe two weeks later the Post reprinted the recipe.

To be considered is that Angel Gingerbread doesn't have any ginger in it: Angel Gingerbread 1 cup sugar 1/2 cup shortening 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 cup molasses 2 eggs 2 cups flour 1 teaspoon soda 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon cloves

Stir all up, pour in 1 cup boiling water and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Every so often during the next 50 years the Post would have had enough inquiries about Angel Gingerbread to run the recipe again, and not once in all that time did anybody ever question the lack of ginger in Angel Gingerbread.

Angel Gingerbread has been our family gingerbread all this time, and even with wife away I had no trouble finding the recipe for Sue. I sent it over the waters to her, and, as usual, the Bible is right again. It happened that I hadn't tasted gingerbread in some years, for no particular reason pro and con, and when Sue came around by highway with a plate of Angel Gingerbread for my approval, I was glad. Some old goo-ood it was, and I didn't have to wait all that many days either.

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