[Sca-cooks] Gilded gingerbread query

Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius adamantius1 at verizon.net
Thu Jan 4 13:30:48 PST 2007

On Jan 3, 2007, at 9:12 PM, David Friedman wrote:

> A corespondent put this question to me and wanted me to post it to  
> the list:
> ---
> I wanted to ask if you could perhaps shed any light on the origin of
> the phrase "to gild the gingerbread?" and whether, to your knowledge,
> gold leaf is still much used as food decoration?

Well, bearing in mind that gingerbread was sometimes, in the Middle  
Ages, in that same grey area between food and medicine that sugar- 
coated spices often occupied, and bearing in mind that for a long  
time silver and gold leaf was used to roll pills (and is still used  
for preparing betel nuts for consumption in India today, but they  
call it gold or silver vark), _and_ the fact that some modern Persian  
and Indian food (as well as some rather nouvelle-type desserts) are  
still sometimes presented with decorations of edible gold and silver,  
I suspect that there's probably quite a lot of circumstantial  
evidence that at least some gingerbread was actually gilded  
(sometimes with actual gold, and perhaps sometimes with sweetened,  
saffron-enhanced egg wash)

I wish I had better hard evidence to offer, but I'd have to dig it up  
specifically for this discussion.

Pure gold and silver are edible, you can buy them in Indian groceries  
today, and I've also seen them in various forms in high-end cake  
decorating supply houses -- those lovely but weird little edible gold  
and silver jimmies you can buy, were once made with real gold or  
silver, plus you can get leaf/foil (which I haven't the patience or  
manual dexterity to work with), and powdered gold or silver which can  
be mixed with sugar syrup, egg whites, or a gum solution to create  
edible gold or silver paint that actually does appear metallic --  
because it is ;-).


"S'ils n'ont pas de pain, vous fait-on dire, qu'ils  mangent de la  
brioche!" / "If there's no bread to be had, one has to say, let them  
eat cake!"
     -- attributed to an unnamed noblewoman by Jean-Jacques Rousseau,  
"Confessions", 1782

"Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy -- or go on Prozac?"
     -- Susan Sheybani, assistant to Bush campaign spokesman Terry  
Holt, 07/29/04

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