In the early days, before my mother got all fancy on us and started making things like Norwegian Krumkakes and Mexican Wedding Cookies, her holiday cookie repertoire relied heavily on sugar cookies (which we took hours to decorate), Snickerdoodles, and Molasses Crinkles (from the original Betty Crocker cookbook, I think). Whenever she made the Molasses Crinkle dough, our dog Pepe would slink into the kitchen; he loved the smell and the taste of ginger.

I was right there with Pepe. Something about that dark and spicy molasses-ginger combination got me from the start. My mom would also make the cakey kind of gingerbread, baked in a square pan and served warm with homemade whipped cream. I loved that! My ginger love did not extend to actual gingerbread people, because of an odd habit my parents had of taking us to a horrible bakery after church every Sunday and insisting (despite evidence of things like doughnuts and cream-filled pastries that must have tasted halfway decent) that we could only have a gingerbread man as a treat. They were terribly dry, with rock-hard raisins as their only embellishment. What were my parents thinking?

Since then, I have had excellent gingerbread in all forms and I’ve pursued and taste-tested dozens of different ginger and/or molasses cookies over the years. (Ginger and chocolate are a surprisingly good pair.)

Last week, I was astonished and tickled to see that we (here at the Gazette, and thanks to designer Jane McTeigue) had printed our very own holiday gift wrap on newsprint, in two designs, and that one of the designs featured a recipe for Sea-Voyage Gingerbread, which was first published in the August 28, 1857 edition of the Vineyard Gazette. I sniffed around a bit and discovered that the recipe had been reprinted (exactly as written in 1857) in the first hardcover edition of The Martha’s Vineyard Cookbook by Louise Tate King and Jean Stewart Wexler (1971), as well as subsequent paperback editions. Henry Beetle Hough, the longtime editor of the Gazette, had written a foreword to both editions, and the foreword happened to mention the gingerbread recipe.

“It is true that Vineyard housewives could make sea voyage gingerbread that would last well around Cape Horn and into the Pacific or even into the Arctic; and it is true that a biting northeaster and a hard day’s work on the water would assist the ingestion of a hearty eel stifle. But . . .”

And he goes on to say how Vineyard cuisine had evolved into something a bit less stout over the years. But putting aside the eel stifle for a minute (I read the recipe — let’s just say I think the Eels with Herbs recipe sounded a bit more appealing), it’s not a stretch to interpret Hough’s words as cautionary. Sea Voyage Gingerbread might be a tooth-breaker.

There was some enthusiasm in our office for trying the recipe (after all, a gill of brandy is added to the beaten eggs), but I was worried that this would not end well and so offered up a distraction: ginger-molasses cookies.

I knew I had a recipe I wanted to publish in the paper. While my mother had eventually graduated from molasses crinkles to making something more akin to a Moravian ginger crisp (perhaps like the Ginger Wink my co-worker headed out the door to make today), I never got over my love for the original cookie. But I always liked it best when it was tender and chewy so I cheated the ingredients around a bit (a little lighter on the flour, a bit heavier on the brown sugar and molasses), to get that result consistently in a dessert recipe I wrote for my cookbook, Fresh From the Farm. I wanted the cookies to be thin and wide, sturdy, but still chewy, so that they could support a topping of roasted caramelized pears and ginger mascarpone whipped cream. They did just that, but they also became my preferred version of the original cookie.

Yet I realize that not everyone has the time and inclination to make their own cookies this holiday season. I thought some folks might want to know where to buy a good Island-made ginger cookie, so I did a quick reconnaissance mission this morning and returned to the office with ginger cookies from the Black Dog Bakery, the Scottish Bakehouse, and Rosewater Market. (Disclaimer: I did not attempt to round up every ginger cookie on the Island.) I then subjected my co-workers to a taste-test, asking them to evaluate each cookie. They were naturally obliging.

But wouldn’t you know it, they hardly agreed on anything. There were heated discussions among the 14 participants about texture (Rosewater — soft and chewy, Black Dog — crunchy on the outside, dense in the middle) and flavor (ginger level — Scottish Bakehouse the most; deepest molasses, Black Dog.) In the end, Scottish and Rosewater (which happens to also be gluten-free) edged out Black Dog by a smdige, but each cookie had its champions.

Whether they’re called ginger cookies or molasses cookies or snaps or crisps or crinkles, it’s good to know this classic flavor combination has inspired timeless recipes for sweets that keep — even if you aren’t planning a trip around the Horn. At least they’ll keep in a tin (or better yet, the freezer) for a week or two over the holidays. Unless, of course, your co-workers find them first.

A note about ginger: Fresh ginger is a rhizome which is easily grown in temperate climates or greenhouses (Caitlin Jones at Mermaid Farm has grown it on the Vineyard). When very young, the small ginger “roots” are juicy and the skin is thin. Mature ginger will be a bit more fibrous (tip: use the back of a spoon to peel the skin). While fresh ginger has extensive savory uses, it can be used in desserts, especially to infuse custards for ice cream, pastry cream, crème brulee and more. (This weekend chef Gina Stanley, who is serving dinner at the ArtCliff Diner Friday and Saturday nights from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., is planning on having a gingerbread spice beignet with ginger sugar and eggnog crème brûlée on the menu!) But more often, when it comes to sweets (especially baked goods), ginger is dried and ground into the powdery spice we all have in our spice cabinets. Yet there is one other form of ginger that may be my favorite: crystallized, or candied, ginger. It has a great texture and a bright, hot, intensely gingery flavor. Chop it finely and add it to quickbreads or cookies, or even to salad dressings. Or just snack on it. Especially if you’re on a sea voyage — ginger alleviates sea-sickness.

Recipe for Big Molasses Crinkle Cookies.