Martha’s Blondies Have More Fun!- White Chocolate Gingerbread Blondies- 65 eggs, 51 cups of sugar, 43 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 47 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 141 recipes to go!

June 14, 2010


Martha's White Chocolate- Gingerbread Blondies

André's White Chocolate-Gingerbread Blondies

And I had but one penny in the world, thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.
– William Shakespeare, “Love’s Labor’s Lost”

Did you know that before refrigeration gingerbread was often crumbled into recipes to mask the odor of decaying meat? Appetizing, huh?

This is one of the facts I learned when researching the history and origin of gingerbread.

The first use of gingerbread dates back to the time of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians where a form of gingerbread was baked and used for ceremonial purposes. It was first introduced to Europe in the 11th century when explorers returned with ginger spice from the far East. As the spice became more affordable Europeans mixed it with ground almonds, stale breadcrumbs, sugar and rosewater. This dough was then pressed into molds to form small, dense, dry cakes of different shapes and sizes. It was during the Middle Ages that Gingerbread Baking Guilds were formed thus perfecting the art of the gingerbread.

Some time in the 16th century breadcrumbs were replaced with flour.  Eggs were also added along with other spices to create the lighter version of gingerbread we are most familiar with today.

The first gingerbread man is credited to Queen Elizabeth I who served them to her guests. They were decorated to resemble the person who was to devour them. An intimidating tactic, no?

Gingerbread was often tied with a red ribbon and distributed by young lovers at fairs and festivals as tokens of their love.

In the 19th century, gingerbread houses became popular after the Brothers Grimm published their stories. One such story, Hansel & Gretel, told the tale of two greedy German kids who fall prey to an old witch who happens to live in a house made of gingerbread. The lebkuchenhaeusl- (Gingerbread House) is still very much part of the German, Eastern European, and American holiday traditions.

Feeling enlightened, yet?

My partner, Dan picked out this recipe to bake as a small gift for his mother’s 80th birthday. She grew up on a small Midwestern farm and he thought the simplistic and familiar flavor of gingerbread would be appreciated.
I, however, appreciate that blondies, brownies, or any other bar cookie for that matter, require very little elbow-grease to make. Mix the ingredients, put it in a pan, bake, then cut. Voila! Treats!

Gingerbread always reminds me of the Northeast, particularly New England. Growing up in Louisiana, there just wasn’t a lot of German or Eastern European food served. There was a fast food chain restaurant called Der Wienerschnitzel, but I don’t think that counts.

I started this post with a quote from Shakespeare. I am a big fan of the bard and during my past theatre career  I have had the pleasure and challenge of performing quite a few of his plays. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry IV pts 1 & 2, Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo & Juliet, Julius Caesar, and The Merry Wives of Windsor to name a few.

In my final year of work with Swine Palace, I performed the role of Friar Laurence in Romeo & Juliet. It was a joint-production between the members of Swine Palace and Shakespeare & Company. Shake & Co. is one of the foremost producers of Shakespeare’s works in North America. Based in Lenox, Massachusetts, nestled next to Tanglewood in the verdant, New England Berkshires, Shakespeare & Company produces and trains actors specifically in the performance of Mr. Will’s works.

After my turn in Romeo & Juliet, Shake & Co. offered me the opportunity to participate in their intensive training program at Bennington College in Vermont… in JANUARY!
I accepted.

I flew to NYC and after a few days with friends, I hopped a train from Grand Central up to Bennington.  It was cold. Colder than any other cold I had ever experienced.

The train pushed itself along fields of white. A thick blanket of snow covered everything. I leaned my head against the window and watched my breath create a disc of fog that expanded and contracted with each slow exhalation. I could feel myself dozing off in the warmth of the coach. I could hear a fellow passenger snoring unapologetically from the back of the car.

Just as we were entering the Capitol city of Albany, the train braked abruptly. Everyone was thrown forward as the squeal of steel on steel rang through each of the train cars. People muttered obscenities in alarm, bracing themselves against the seats in front of them. I peered out at the sheet of white snow as the train continued to jerk back and forth, squealing, tilting, and finally slowing down. I watched the ground outside my window morph from a steady, blurry streak to a slow and deliberate crawl.

The white outside my window became light pink, then rose, then red, then maroon.
The train came to a standstill.
I glanced down through the window at the wet, red ground and felt my face grow warm and flush. My heart pounded. At first, I thought I was looking at a twisted piece of metal or plastic but as my eyes focused on the object it took on a definite form. It was an arm- disembodied, male, and torn from the shoulder. I quickly closed my curtain and urged my fellow passengers to do the same.

My heart sank. I felt sick.
Fellow travelers began to mill about nervously chattering about the blood in the snow. I heard a lady passenger at the front of the cabin shriek. Her eyes had landed on the mangled corpse outside her window. An attendant came rushing through the coach and told everyone to return to their seats and pull the shades closed.
A few moments later the conductor announced through the intercom that the train had struck a gentleman and would be delayed at least four hours while the authorities processed the scene.

I sank deeper into my seat as my brain began to collate this information.  Over the next few hours, news circulated inside our coach as to the circumstances of this unfortunate incident. Apparently one of the officers had loose lips and had been feeding information to the train attendants. The attendants, in turn, fed information to the riders who spread the news from car-to-car on the Bennington bound Amtrak.

It was a suicide. The gentleman had parked his rusted, blue truck at the intersection and waited for the train. He had left a simple note to his family and stepped out in front just as the train was about to cross. It was instantaneous. He was no more.

I listened to the passengers. Some cried softly. A few prayed.  Others complained about the delay. Those traveling with young children, struggled with answering the many questions asked by  each confused and inquisitive child.

Hours later, after the ambulance pulled away with the remains and the officers and street workers cleared  the last hints of pink from the snow, the train resumed its journey.

I was numb when I finally arrived at Bennington College. I was almost five hours late and introductory exercises had just begun.
The class of forty people sat in a large circle. Each of us was to introduce ourselves to the group, comment a little on our personal history that lead us towards desiring intensive training in Shakespeare, and provide a favorite quote from one of his plays or sonnets.

As each member of the class spoke, my mind wandered back to that poor, sad man. I thought of his family. I thought of the day he was born. His life as a child. His school. His friends. His first crush. His last heartbreak. What series of events could have led to this decision to end his life? What in his life was so deeply troubling it required such a permanent conclusion? How many people at that moment were weeping for him?
It was my turn to speak.

I told them of the events of the day. My journey by train. The abrupt stop. The suicide. The thoughts it provoked. The class listened astonished and sad. I spoke of my love of Shakespeare and the questions his plays ask- the same questions we ask in our hearts each day.

Why am I here?
Am I a good person?
What is love?
Is there such a thing as ‘good?’
What do I really want?
How should I be?
To be or not to be?

Shakespeare’s characters, like us- like those children on the train, struggle with these questions. Some find the answers that lead to happiness. Others find the ones that lead to tragedy.

I thought, once again, of that poor man in the snow who, that day, chose the answer, “Not to Be.”

I thought of Friar Laurence’s soliloquy and how those words may have helped that gentleman know he had value. To know that his life mattered. To know the world needed him.

“For not so vile that on the Earth doth live,
But to the Earth some special good doth give.”



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One Response to “Martha’s Blondies Have More Fun!- White Chocolate Gingerbread Blondies- 65 eggs, 51 cups of sugar, 43 1/2 sticks of Butter, and 47 1/2 cups of flour used so far- 141 recipes to go!”

  1. Alyse Says:

    So sad…


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