It is time to introduce another installment of the Gingerbread Project. For more than ten years, Spencer, Templar, Whirl and I have gotten together around the holidays to build some sort of creation out of gingerbread. Previous constructions include a model of the Field Museum, “Gummi Bear Castle Under Siege from Marshmallow Men”, the pod race from The Phantom Menace, “The House of the Atomic Duck”, “Velociraptors Escaping the Zoo”, and numerous other whimsies and mistakes. As you may have gleaned from the titles, our reverence for the Christmas holiday often takes a backseat to a more insidious form of gallows humor.
This year’s project is entitled “A House Under Construction”. Spencer and Templar have spent much of the calendar year suffering under a series of home improvement projects conducted on their new house in the Oak Park. Some of the projects were necessary for the sake of livability; some were more accurately classified as design changes based on personal desires. All of them involved a disruption to the daily routine, contractors, dust and the associated discontent that comes with living under construction.
We wanted to reflect some of that condition with our gingerbread house this year. Spencer took up the role of general architect. She designed a two story floor plan with one wall cut away to reveal interior scenes. The original design included two matching round turrets atop the structure. This element revised down to a single square turret after our attempts at baking a gingerbread tube suffered multiple catastrophic structural failures.
Hill oversaw the inclusion of several elements of “comic mischief”. At one point he installed a gummi bear boxing ring in the second story, had other gummi bears stuck entering or exiting various windows of the house, and included at least one gummi bear plummeting to his demise upon a pile of bricks. As he generously explained to me, “it’s not funny if it does not include some element of pain.” Spencer and I rescued the falling worker with some Twizzler-rope and a team of gummi bears to belay.
Whirl took it upon herself to develop the small details. She outfitted the gingerbread house’s kitchen and bathroom. The kitchen included counters and tables based on IKEA designs. The bathroom included a functional toilet. Whirl was even kind enough to provide an indisposed gummi worker with reading material while he went about his business.
Danaan and Hill also worked on the house’s garden. The garden included reindeer, a Christmas tree, banana trees and a stone fence. Hill later added a team of gummi gardeners and a squad of gummi hunters attracted by the promise of an easy reindeer hunt in the garden. The gardeners hoped to provide sufficient deterrent with their rakes and shovels.
We incorporated several elements to illustrate the state of being actively under construction. I used marshmallows to represent a brick facade, leaving one side of the house incomplete and piling the marshmallow bricks nearby for completion. Whirl created a stack of lumber out of thin gingerbread pieces. Teams of workers and foremen swarm the construction site, although several are occupied by the marauding alligator trying to get into the house through a first story window.
This year’s project is smaller than the Field Museum from last year, but it still took the six of us about four hours to complete. It measures a little more than eighteen inches wide by about 30 inches long by about 30 inches high at the top of the turret. And like all of the projects, it will remain at the Perry’s house and serve as decoration, snack and dessert for the next couple weeks. The candy usually goes first, and then the gingerbread. Sacrifices to the spirit of Christmas sugar.