Corsican Gingerbread – Historical Context
In Medieval England, the term gingerbread simply meant ‘preserved ginger’ and wasn’t applied to the desserts we are familiar with until the 15th century. The term is now broadly used to describe any type of sweet treat that combines ginger with honey, treacle or molasses. Ginger root was first cultivated in ancient China. It was commonly used as a medical treatment. From there it spread to Europe. During the Middle Ages it was preferred to be used as a spice for the taste of preserved meats. The first known recipe for gingerbread came from Greece in 2400 BC. The early form of gingerbread can be traced to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians who used it for ceremonial purposes. Gingerbread made an appearance in Europe when 11th-century crusaders brought the spice back from the Middle East for the richer people to experiment with.
As ginger and other spices became more affordable to the people, gingerbread caught on. In the 16th century, the English replaced the breadcrumbs with flour, and added eggs and sweeteners, resulting in a lighter product and creating gingerbread. In the 18th century, Napoléon Bonaparte, a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the latter stages of the French Revolution, apparently loved gingerbread. He was Corsican and the gingerbread we made was Corsican hard gingerbread. In his place under his stove they found a ash hole from gingerbread. They also had found gingerbread on the floor. It is interesting to know that the Corsican gingerbread goes back that far.