“Who is this?”
“Danny’s Demolition. We’re offering a 20% discount this week on tear-downs and we heard there’s an immediate need at your address.”
I pounded END, and added even MORE egg powder to the bowl.
Then I turned back to Hell House.
I was twenty-five years old and had never before tried to bake and assemble a gingerbread house, but how hard could it be? I was a decent cook, and a pretty good baker.
I did have a habit of not following recipes exactly, but I thought that, in this case, I’d better. This house was to be the very first Christmas gift for my future mother-in-law. I was going to impress her. 🙄
The house would have cobblestones–halved hazelnuts–coating the chimney and the low walls surrounding its snowy yard. The windows would be glowing stained glass, formed the way lollipops are made, by melting, coloring, and candying sugar syrup.
At no point did my fiance Joe let me know that his mother had worked for years as a professional baker, decorating cakes–including gingerbread cottages. 😡
I slid my first-ever gingerbread roof and wall pieces from the oven. Perfect! After they cooled, I began the assembly process with the stiff, dry Royal Icing, made per the instructions, using toothpicks and books to pin and prop pieces in place until the icing dried and held.
Except it never did. I may as well have been constructing a house of cards in a breezy causeway. As soon as the icing dried, and I removed pins and props, it was Jericho all over again.
Again and again I re-propped and re-glued, and again and again roof and walls came crashing down. Soon, each crash was accompanied by a soft, swishing sound, like slush falling:
followed by a sharper rapping sound, like when sleet hits:
Those sounds kept repeating, growing rapidly in volume as the “Shhh–it” storm increased in its fury. Then, the sleet apparently turned to rain, for drops suddenly began falling down upon the hellish house, causing the Royal Icing to develop Royal Dripsicles.
I sat down and finished bawling. Then I sat back and took an objective look at Hell House as it stood thus far:
After multiple crashes into the snowy interior, the swayback roof now sagged dangerously, and the two halves had a noticeable gap between. One corner of the house failed to meet its neighboring corner by almost a half-inch. And there wasn’t a prayer of the stained glass windows fitting their openings.
What to do?! ❓
Hmmm… There WAS a bit of ginger-y dough remaining… 💡
…A sleigh and Santa could close the open roof…
…A cypress tree could mask the gaping corner…
…Some simple window sashes could disguise the too-short lollipanes! 🙂
As for that Royal Pain-in-the-Icing, if more cream of tartar didn’t do the trick, I’d get the caulk gun, dammit.
At last. Finished. Ho-ho-hope future Mom liked it, because by now, she was the only one who would.
All that remained was to pack the house inside a giant box and carry it on a plane.
Eight hours later, I was in future mom’s kitchen, performing Royal Splicing on Santa and his sleigh. Reattaching a roof. Performing Christmas miracles with a broken cypress tree–or was it a cedar of Lebanon?
All of this effort accompanied by more slushy, sleety sound effects–in the spirit of the season.
On the blessed day, upon opening the box, Santa and his sleigh were found to be sliding dangerously backward down a ridgeline into an ice-skating pond of Royal Goo, congealed in the deepest depression of the roof’s swayback.
Future mom wisely did not comment upon this, recognizing the situation for the slippery slope it was. 😉
After the story of its unique local weather conditions was told by Joe, The Gingerbread House from Hell was rechristened forever The Sh*t House. I was so traumatized by the experience that it was almost ten years until I made another gingerbread house.
* * *
It didn’t come out any better!