Why build a house of gingerbread?
The answer may as well be because it has always been done, or at least since 1812 when the gingerbread house of Hansel and Gretel described by the Brothers Grimm excited the minds of all who read their story.
Regardless, the building and displaying of gingerbread houses has become an institution at , which is hosting its in this - its 90th year. This year's theme is "North Shore Landmarks."
Judging from the number of entries as of Thursday – up to 19 with the arrival of a handsome rendition of Henry’s Market of Beverly - there's plenty of enthusiasm.
Receiving the tidily constructed confection, Wenham Museum director Lindsay Diehl took quick action. Stepping over the display’s protective barrier, she climbed aboard and positioned Henry’s Market a gumdrop toss away from a well-baked replica of the , ornamented with poured sugar stained glass windows.
Mant of the bakers and builders are regular contestants. Museum volunteer Jean Germino has participated all but one year. Making up for the one lapse, she has two houses entered this round.
“I made them with my daughter and granddaughters," she said. "The one I made was called a fairytale cottage.”
Germino said that the classic construction adorned with strings of Christmas lights made of delicately applied dabs of frosting was made from a kit.
“I’m not as creative as lots of people,” she said.
The Witch Museum and a model of the Choate Bridge in Ipswich - built of two pumpkin bread loaves - are two of the other gingerbread houses Germino particularly admires.
“It’s really well done and they certainly were creative at coming up with the products that give it the look it has,” Germino said. “I’m curious to know how they created the water - it isn’t even blue.”
The trick to making the distinctive water of the Ipswich River, according to Raymond Ocock, grandfather to the two five-year olds of the Turpel gingerbread team, was caramel sundae sauce.
“Aluminum foil (beneath) gives it a sheen like muddy water,” explained Ocock.
Marshmallows added to create a look of a gushing current help support the bridge’s arch.
Helene Ripley, who along with her husband Bruce recreated the Ipswich Clambox restaurant, explained their choice of the landmark.
“All I could think of was the Clambox,” she said.
Ripley, a computer systems instructor by day, admits she likes a challenge.
“My battle was to get the roof right,” she said.
Ultimately, the husband and wife team turned to Dawson’s hardware to buy sheet metal to use as a frame.
“We had our heads in all directions to get the right angle,” Ripley laughed.
Besides teasing out the trick to accurately portraying the open box lid of the Clambox, Ripley confided that the second biggest challenge was staying ahead of her husband’s appetite.
“It was hilarious to see him eat one of these and one of those. He kept eating it all,” she said giggling. “But he was a tremendous help.”
The gingerbread houses will be on display through Dec. 17.