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The Long History of Gingerbread
Food historians have traced the first known recipe for gingerbread all the way back to Greece in 2400 BC. By the late Middle Ages, the hard cookies were a staple at medieval fairs and festivals in England, France, Holland, and Germany. Queen Elizabeth I is credited with the idea of decorating the cookies—she ordered some made to resemble the dignitaries visiting her court. Gingerbread houses originated in 16th century Germany and were popularized in the Brothers Grimm tale of “Hansel and Gretel.” In colonial New England, the cookies were often cut into patriotic shapes like the American eagle. There is even a well-preserved recipe by George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington, which was served to the Marquis de Lafayette and thereafter known as Lafayette Gingerbread. Today, gingerbread houses and cookies are a beloved American tradition during the holidays.