“Um…  it’s not a house.” 

This was my first thought upon recently stumbling across the winner of the 2014 National Ginger Bread House Competition at the Grove Park Inn, in Asheville North Carolina.

It was sitting in a display case, tucked in a semi-remote hallway of the famous hotel, which has been host to the annual, gingerbread house contest for 22 years.  I used to go check it out yearly, but it lost me a while back, because the entries seemed really slick and pro, and had nothing to do with Asheville, or the GPI, or actual gingerbread houses anymore.  The entries, it seemed, could be and were, shaped like whatever, and some of the themes seemed questionable, or tacky at the very least.

Last year, for example, Ann Bailey was the big winner in the Adult category, with her entry titled, “Pawn Stars,” which resembles a really fancy, Christmas-themed chess board, complete with reindeer, elves, and X-mas trees comprising some of the chess-pieces. A variety of very fancified stars act as the pawns, in two lines facing each other from across the board.

I know it was the winner in the “adult” category, but I think the title is perhaps a little TOO adult, if you know what I’m sayin’.

Here are my problems with this gingerbread house…

• As I said…  it’s NOT A HOUSE.  I dunno, but if I was going to have a contest, and the very title of that contest contained the word “house,” as in, let’s say…  a…  Green House Building contest …and someone submitted, ohhhhh… a chair …to my Green House Building contest… they certainly would not win.  Even if the chair was gorgeous, and was made out of glass, and had plants inside, it would still be a chair, and not a green house.  “Pawn Stars” is a chess board.  Not a gingerbread house. If I was a judge at the GPI gingerbread HOUSE competition, I’d be wanting to see some amazing… gingerbread… houses.

• Pawn Stars is a TV show, and a really inane one at that.  It is an inane TV show that has absolutely nothing to do with: Christmas, chess, gingerbread, gingerbread houses, Asheville, the GPI, or seemingly ANYTHING related to this contest or entry, except for the 1/2-clever pun being made with the title.  I hate 1/2-clever shit.  Again, if I was a judge in this contest, I would ask Ms. Baily, “What is the connection between the TV show that your piece is named after, and the concept of your piece, beyond the pun?”  If Ann could explain that to me in a satisfactory manner, I would have less of a problem with her entry, but still, I hate when bullshit, mainstream, force-it-down-your-throat, media culture seeps into our quaint traditions. It’s annoying to me.

• The title of the TV show Pawn Stars, is itself a 1/2-clever take on the cultural term “Porn Stars,” as in: People who fuck for a living.  I’m sorry to be vulgar, but let’s call it like it is.  The TV show Pawn Stars — though it has nothing to do with the porn industry — is named after people who are paid for having sex in front of cameras, for the pleasure of others.  That’s just a fact.  And…  so…  in turn…  this cute little Christmas chess set is likewise titled after those people who are employed to fuck.  Thaaaat’s charming.  And is a perfect example of why I hate 1/2-clever shit. Isn’t the GPI Ginger Bread House competition supposed to be for families? I don’t think the porn industry needs to be given a tip o’ the hat from an entry in any family-oriented event.  Am I wrong about that?  Should I soften my stance on references to porn around kids?  Well, I’m not going to.

• Where’s the gingerbread? I looked and looked and looked at Pawn Stars slowly rotating on its electric lazy-Susan-type-pedestal inside the glass case at the GPI, but nowhere could I ascertain any gingerbread. No. Where. I saw what appeared to be an assload of fondant, and food coloring, and I suppose there may have been some gingerbread underneath all that fondant, but who the fuck knows?  There could have also been chicken wire, Styrofoam, human remains… almost anything can be covered in fondant and presented as food.  What would we find if we cracked open one of the “pawn stars” on Ann’s chess board? The world may never know, because I guess the sad truth is that these contest entries are never meant to be eaten, and so they don’t need to be edible.  When you put it that way, who cares what’s under the fondant? I mean, it’s not a cookie, Stu, it’s a sculpture.

Well, in that case, World, why the fuck is this contest titled The National Gingerbread House Competition if it doesn’t need to be a house, and it doesn’t need to made out of gingerbread?  Why not just call it the National Fondant Sculpture Competition?

Because there is no interest in fondant as a food item, that’s why, and there is no cultural history of fondant sculpture contests.  If the title of this competition were more accurate, no one would give a shit.  

There is, however, a strong interest in gingerbread as a food item, and a long cultural history of gingerbread house competitions.

I feel as though the original spirit of such contests has been completely lost at the GPI Gingerbread House Competition, and that is exactly why they have lost me as a fan, and vocal proponent of their competition. I used to tell people how much I liked it.  Now, I curl my lip at the mere mention of this falsely advertized contest of fondant manipulators.

I am aware that the entries to modern Gingerbread House competitions are generally meant to be displayed for long periods of time, up to a month or even much longer, and are not intended to be eaten, ever, by anyone, but, I think that’s bullshit. Take a fuckin’ picture, then eat that thing.  One of the criteria for winning a gingerbread house contest should be how your gingerbread house TASTES in my opinion.

When I was a kid (Oh, Christ, here comes Grandpa) half the fun of making a gingerbread house was destroying it and eating it.  Now I guess the fun is in…  looking at it until you throw it away.

The logo for The National Gingerbread House Competition depicts a house, made of gingerbread. The winner of The National Gingerbread House Competition in the background is a chess board made out of Femo… er…  I mean, fondant.
 ### END ###



  1. I totally agree. I fought some of the entries at Grove arcade, and the only ones I enjoyed were the ones obviously made by kids.
    I was very pleased to see this year at the Mt State fair, all the food entries were displayed just for judging, then taken to food pantries to be eaten, and photos were left on display. win win.


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