Posts Tagged With: Madonna

156/365: National Gingerbread Day

Run, run, as fast as you can. To the pantry. Because June 5 is National Gingerbread Day!

An Armenian monk named Gregory Makar introduced gingerbread to Europe in 992, teaching French priests how to cook it up until his death in 999 (the poor bastard couldn’t live just one more year to see the calendar flip to 4 digits!). Cooking methods – and the final product – varied: in some places it was a soft cake, in others a crisp, flat cookie. It could be light or dark, sweet or spicy, and was usually cut into shapes depicting people, animals, stars, and Madonna’s cone-shaped bra from her 1990 Blond Ambition tour. During the 13th century Germans brought it to Sweden, where nuns baked it to help ease indigestion. In Medieval England it was also believed to have medicinal properties (though it didn’t do jack shit for javelin wounds). Gingerbread became a fairground delicacy, where it was cut into shapes to denote different seasons: buttons and flowers in the springtime, birds and animals in the autumn. One village in England had a tradition in which young, unmarried women were required to eat gingerbread “husbands” at the fair if they wished to get married. In the 19th century, the Grimm brothers found an old German fairy tale called Hansel and Gretel, about two children lost in the woods who discover a gingerbread house. The publication of this story helped popularize gingerbread houses, particularly in Germany and the United States. Nowadays they are mostly associated with Christmas.

To celebrate the holiday, we went the “crispy cookie” route rather than the “moist cake” way, given that tomorrow is a cake holiday. They were gingery and spicy and seemed a little out of place in June…but, they weren’t bad!

Gingerbread Cookies

Categories: Desserts | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

109/365: National Amaretto Day*

I go a little nuts whenever I’m served a drink featuring today’s honored ingredient. April 19 is National Amaretto Day!

It’s also National Garlic Day. Though we didn’t specifically celebrate garlic, the Mexican food we had for dinner contained the strongly-scented herb, so mission accomplished there! For us, it’s a rare dinner that doesn’t feature garlic in one form or another, anyway. Vampires do not like us.

I was happy to celebrate an alcoholic beverage again, truth be told. It’s been awhile since we’ve been able to officially imbibe. (Unofficially it’s only been 24 hours, but whatever). Amaretto is an almond-flavored liqueur made from apricot pits or almonds, sometimes both. We can thank a young, widowed, horny innkeeper for this particular invention. In 1545, artist Bernardino Luini, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci’s, was commissioned to paint the sanctuary of a church in Saronno, Italy. He needed a model to portray the church’s patron saint, the Madonna, who was like a virgin. Literally. She’s the Virgin Mary, and her face was in vogue back in those days. He found his muse in a young, widowed innkeeper, who is rumored to have become his lover. Virgin, my ass! Wanting to thank Luini for giving her the opportunity – and allegedly, for giving her a whole lot more than just that – she decided to give him a gift, but money was tight. She took a handful of apricot kernels, steeped them in brandy, and presented them to the painter as a token of her gratitude and affection. And thus, amaretto was born.

A few years ago I was reading Tara’s blog, and she mentioned going out with her friends and drinking chocolate cake shots. I had never heard of such a concoction, and thought they sounded like a terrible idea. Until we started dating and she made me one. Wow! They’re delicious. They really do taste like chocolate cake in a glass, if you can believe that. Tara can talk about how they’re made.

I have two of my best friends to thank for getting me hooked on chocolate cake shots.  Robin, Betsy, and I have spent many a night bar hopping in Ely and turning other people onto these tasty treats.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard “This really does taste like chocolate cake!”

A chocolate cake shot is made with equal parts Frangelico and vanilla vodka and finished with a splash of amaretto.  It’s served with a lemon wedge dipped in sugar (or the shot glass has a sugared rim).  Like a tequila shot you’re supposed to lick the sugar, take the shot, and then suck the lemon.  Variations include a birthday cake shot (splash of Grand Marnier) and german chocolate cake shot (splash of Malibu rum).  Yum!

Nowadays, anytime we’re in the mood for a little celebration, we’ll order a round of chocolate cake shots. Like the night we were engaged. Coincidentally enough, this evening we are headed back to the same place for some live music. We plan to order the same thing when we get there. However, because some versions of chocolate cake shots omit the amaretto, we’re bringing our own in a flask to add to our shots. Better safe than sorry. I suppose we could request it from the bartender, but where’s the fun in that? Shh!

This is one of the few challenges that we’re posting before we’ve actually completed it. If anything changes tonight, we’ll come back and update the post. Otherwise, knock on wood, let’s just assume everything will go as planned.

Shh. We're sneaking it in!

Shh. We’re sneaking it in!

Oh, and I wanted to mention, if you’re unaware we have a Facebook page and would love more followers. Feel free to look us up here!

Categories: Alcohol | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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