The road to Ginger’s Breadboys began sometime in the last century at a little bakery on Merrimon Avenue in Asheville, NC.
When I was a child, we would visit my grandparents in Weaverville, NC. Moore’s Bakery was on the way from Asheville to Weaverville on Highway 25. We always stopped. And it was there that I saw my first gingerbread man cookie. Colorfully decorated with eyes, nose, raisin buttons (I think) and mittens, and so big I needed two hands to hold it. It was mesmerizing. And this cookie had my name.
The whole “what’s in a name” Shakespeare quote really doesn’t apply to one’s given name. Your name – when you’re a child – is the key to your identity. And when there is confusion about that name . . . well, it takes on a disproportionate significance.
Born as Susan Virginia, it took about 6 months to realize that that moniker didn’t fit yet apparently plenty of time to receive a Christmas stocking with SUSAN on it.
Confusions sets in when the name on your Christmas stocking is not what people call you.
While the nickname Ginger was most appropriate, it required constant explanation to anyone in authority.
And there was a cookie with my name.
Alas, I had no clue that ginger was a spice. So the first bite of this cookie was surprising. Yet, I continued to get one each time we stopped at Moore’s if only for looks and name alone. It would be a few years before I developed a taste for it.
Fast forward a few decades.
A gingerbread boy cookie was the first thing I thought of as a Christmas stocking stuffer for friends and fellow riders at the barn in Virginia where I rode after moving from NC to Washington, DC.
Considering the obstacles in that first year, it is - in retrospect - rather amazing that these cookies got made at all.
- I had no cookie cutter which meant cutting out each cookie by hand - guided by the memory of those cookies from Moore’s Bakery.
- Recipes were challenging. Have you seen The Joy of Cooking’s recipe for gingerbread men?
- And I had no clue about royal icing. I used store-bought tube buttercream frosting. Buttercream doesn’t harden.
These cookies did not travel well, didn’t ship well, and thus only looked good at the very moment they were made.
But they were awesomely delicious and this is - after all - a story about help from family and friends.
A gift of gingerbread family cookie cutters soon arrived from my college sorority Big Sister. This cutter has been the shape of my cookies for over 30 years.
- I found a simple recipe in a 20-year old society cookbook my older sister passed on to me. That cookbook was slated for the dump or Goodwill.
- And a few years later, I met my husband who taught me about royal icing. As luck would have it, my husband’s after-school job as a teenager and in college was in a pastry shop. (mic drop)
Need to insert here that I’m not a natural cook or baker. I can follow a recipe but knowing the why and how of cooking and baking are skills that I’ve had to learn. My passion with these cookies has not so much been about the baking itself but for making a cookie that bore my nickname and meant something to me. Something I wanted to share.
And share I have with just about everyone in my circle. All my immediate and extended family, friends, doctors, dentists, clients and work colleagues. Christmas after Christmas, making and giving gingerbread boy cookies became my thing and has been for over 30 years. And over the years, I’ve become quite the baker. (Though, admittedly, I never fully figured out the packaging until a few years ago!)
There have been low points:
- Did I mention the buttercream frosting?
- Trying a gingerbread recipe that called for black pepper
- Using sulphured molasses
- Tying the cookie bags with licorice strings
- Baking the cookies in the humidity of South Florida
- Making the cookies with a full cast on my right hand
And there have been cool discoveries and awesome innovations:
- Silpat nonstick mats
- waxed paper
- the dough hook
- pasteurized egg whites
- double-line pastry tube tips
- wholesales spices
- wholesale candy red hots
- cut ribbon available online
- plastic bag outlets
- cardboard cut to measure
- green waxed fruit paper
Through it all, it has never occurred to me to stop what has become a tradition. Spurred on by encouraging comments from happy recipients, I continued to make my gingerbread boy cookies every year to distribute during the Christmas holidays. Tinkering here and there, refining the recipe and the method. Until I was making around 500 cookies a year yet hearing pleas for “can I get more?”
Well no . . . you can’t . . . I’m exhausted.
And herein lies the pivotal moment.
Over the years, I've always said that one day I wanted to be a cookie magnate. It is a well-known joke around the house . . . but with an element of wish and no clue what being a cookie magnate looked like or how to get there. I knew I could never make enough cookies each year to sustain a business.
But how to give more than two cookies to each person each year?
And just like that, one day the idea was there.
A kit. A gingerbread boy cookie kit.
It wasn’t lightning striking; it wasn’t a eureka moment. It was just there.
What is the most well-known kit in the world? Just take a look at all the shelves filled with cake mixes in the aisle in the grocery store.
Ginger’s Breadboys – years in the making, a product of passion, perseverance and love. Enjoy.
This kit would not have been possible without my "test marketers."
These friends have been getting cookies for years and I think it was a bit of a surprise
when they received a kit instead.
Nonetheless, they have been wonderful in providing feedback on the kit and
I could not have done it without them.
Additionally, I would be remiss if I didn't thank my family and the many friends
who have graciously proofed copy, provided analysis and direction and, most of all, encouragement.
Your input has been simply awesome.