Months ago, when I launched this blog I started working on my editorial calendar. One of the first things I planned was a post about Abraham Lincoln and food he liked, in honor of his birthday (or, as my dad would say, "in honor of the anniversary of his birthday because everyone only has one birthday").
Perfect. After some research, I decided I would make corn dodgers (essentially, rustic cornbread) and gingerbread cookies—both foods he enjoyed.
Cut to now. Never made the corn dodgers, even though I bought the course ground cornmeal from Bob's Red Mill, in preparation! And the gingerbread cookies turned out looking gross.
BUT, I decided to do this post anyway because: A) just wanted to show you that you really can't let pride get in your way when you start blogging (the cookies do look funny!), and B) I wanted to tell you about the great book I discovered in this process.
The book is called, "Abraham Lincoln in the Kitchen: A Culinary View of Lincoln's Life and Times," by Rae Katherine Eighmey, an award winning author and cook.
She devotes all of Chapter 2 to "Lincoln's Gingerbread Men," including a recipe. The thing that I find interesting is the shape of the cookie. From my experience, gingerbread men have always been a flat cookie cutter shape. In that children's story, "The Gingerbread Man," the cookie was always illustrated the same, a cartoonish flat, boring shape with three buttons in the front.
So, I loved Rae Katherine Eighmey's description for how to shape them the way Abraham Lincoln's mother may have:
To make gingerbread men about 4 inches high, break off a piece of dough a little larger than a golf ball. Place it on the work surface and roll it lightly under your palms to form a pencil-thin rope of dough about 12 inches long. Break off a 4-inch-long piece and set aside; this will become the arms. Fold the remaining rope in half to form a narrow, upside-down V. Grasp at the folded top, pinch together 1 inch down from the top and twist, forming the head and neck. Place the arm piece across the back under the neck. Gently press to secure.
I tried making them this way, and they really look terrible. I hesitate to post the photo because I know what they look like to me, so I'm fairly certain I know what they'll look like to you. It could be because I used my own dough, and didn't follow her dough recipe.
Before you see the photo (don't scroll down yet!!), you need to read the following record of Lincoln telling a story from his childhood about gingerbread men. It's cute. I love thinking of Abraham Lincoln eating gingerbread men under a hickory tree. Makes me smile.
Once in a while my mother used to get some sorghum and ginger and make some gingerbread. It wasn't often, and it was our biggest treat. One day I smelled the gingerbread and came into the house to get my share while it was hot. My mother had baked me three gingerbread men. I took them out under a hickory tree to eat them. There was a family near us that was a little poorer than we were, and their boy came along as I sat down.
"Abe," he said, "gimme a man?"
I gave him one. He crammed it into his mouth in two bites and looked at me while I was biting the legs from my first one.
"Abe," he said, "gimme that other'n."
I wanted it myself, but I gave it to him, and as it followed the first I said to him, "You seem to like gingerbread?"
"Abe," he said, "I don't suppose there's anybody on this earth likes gingerbread better'n I do." He drew a long breath before he added, "and I don't suppose there's anybody on this earth gets less'n I do."
OK, the moment you've been waiting for. The great gingerbread man reveal...
Happy Birthday, Abraham Lincoln. Sorry I made one of your favorite treats look like [fill in the blank].