The LONG WAY Round the Kitchen

Time is really flying, first Thanksgiving,then Christmas and here comes the New Year. I’ve read that most people put on a bit of weight this time of year. Boy, do I get it. Food is such a huge part of the holiday season, it seems all we do is eat. Kinda like the entire year in my world, as tasting and eating are a big job requirement. And that’s cool by me.

What’s not so cool is the pedestrian, premade shortcuts people take these days. Not to be a hater, but have you ever seen that one “cooking” show where the blonde hostess just opens packages and modifies them a little bit? I think it’s called something like “Sorta Homemade” or “Almost Edible.” What an atrocity. Let’s take heavily salted, highly processed packaged food and make it “homemade” by adding more processed packaged crap to it. Look, honey, I “made” it myself. YUCK.

If you’re going to do it, do it right — don’t waste your time. Which brings me to what’s really bugging me today: premade gingerbread house kits. I’ve been seeing these things more and more the last couple of years and my only reaction: LAME! These kits are almost as bad as folks buying manufactured jack o’lanterns. Nothing more clearly says, ‘I’m lazy but love cutesy stuff.’

The whole point of themed holiday crafts such as these is the process of making them. They’re expressions of craft or some pent-up, never-realized talent. They represent time spent with your families — you know, those people in your house hiding behind their cell phones. There are myriad reasons why we make real gingerbread houses, and the result is of minor importance.

Reason No. 1: the aroma. Combined with the woodsy scent of a real Christmas tree (don’t get me started on artificial ones), your house becomes a magical place: a winter wonderland even without the snow. Reason No. 2: joy. The kind of joy that only comes from spending time in your house with your children (see, I do have a mushy side). Reason No. 3: self-satisfaction, the kind that only comes by finishing a project that brings happiness to all. And reason No. 4: It’s just darn cool, and you get to eat tons of candy for days and days.

All in all, it takes only a few extra hours to make gingerbread from scratch and chef up your holiday. Don’t be a lazy shoemaker; go for it. You’ll be glad you took my sage advice.

Here’s a super-easy recipe for royal icing, the glue to hold your masterpiece together.

Chef Bill’s Royal Icing

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 pound confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp. real vanilla extract


  1. Place egg whites and vanilla extract in a mixer. Beat at low speed until frothy.
  2. Gradually add the sugar; when it begins to turn shiny, increase to high speed, and beat until stiff peaks begin to form.

Until we cook again,


Contact Chef Bill Thompson, the owner of the Amelia Island Culinary Academy in Fernandina Beach, at to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!