As many of you may have noticed, the Wenches have been making merry over the last two weeks in celebration of the recent release of our Christmas anthology. (Mischief and Mistletoe officially went on sale September 25.) The overall theme we decided on was a very simple one—a Wicked Wench at Christmastime—and then off we went to write our individual stories. (Trust me, the Wenchly brainstorming sessions on coming up with the concept for our anthology were highly amusing, to say the least!)
The result is eight individual stories tied together by this one holiday ribbon—and as a reader I find it delightful that each has its own unique interpretation of “wicked” and reflects the style of its author. I’m betting those of you familiar with the Wenches will be able to identify the author of each simply by reading a snippet!
I n my story, I chose to create a heroine whose “wickedness” is simply being a headstrong hoyden. She’s no proper lady—which tweaks the perfectly tied cravat of the oh-so proper hero. He believes in order and the rules . . . until a chance storm forces them to join forces in a desperate journey to reach London in time for Christmas.
Now, along the way, I actually have the hero do something a little wicked too—he purloins a sackful of freshly baked gingerbread . . . which got me to thinking about this traditional English holiday treat. So I decided to do a little research on the subject and thought I’d share a few sweet facts.
According to the Smithsonian website, gingerbread is thought to have been brought to Europe by Crusaders returning from the Levant. Whatever its origins, it became a popular staple of Medieval fairs and festivals. (It was a token of good luck for a lady to give her favored knight a piece of gingerbread during a tournament.) Another source cites that the first record of gingerbread formed in the shape of a human figure comes from the court of Queen Elizabeth I, who is said to have presented important guests with their likenesses made out of the spiced dough.
Gingerbread is still very popular traditional holiday treat throughout Europe and most countries have their own individual regional variation. In the Nordic countries, a thin, crisp pepper-spiced biscuit is an integral part of the Yuletide celebrations, while in Germany, a great favorite is a soft gingerbread known as lebkuchen. In Poland, the city of Toruń has been famous for its gingerbread since the Middle Ages, and in Bulgaria, the local specialty is made with honey and covered with a chocolate glaze. My Swiss mother adored biber, a marzipan filled gingerbread cake that is the specialty of the cantons of Appenzell and St. Gallen—and so do I!
How about you—do you like gingerbread? Have you a specific type that you enjoy during the holidays? If you’re not a big fan of gingerbread men, what’s your favorite holiday cookie?