Why are gingerbread cookies shaped like men?  There are no chocolate chip or oatmeal raisin people, after all. The reason for gingerbread’s ubiquitous humanoid shape actually has some surprisingly magical roots that date back to Medieval times. According to culinary scholars, gingerbread was often prescribed to people as a way to find spouse. That’s right, gingerbread was a folksy medical cure for loneliness. Who knew cookies were all about romance?

Per pagan tradition, witches and magicians would often bake and sell gingerbread as love tokens, making the cookie an edible voodoo doll of sorts. A favorite delicacy at festivals, the dessert was often used as a way to entice potential suitors, when women would give the treat to their favorite knights as a good luck gesture.

Their superstitious origins may be less familiar today, but gingerbread’s allure is still just as potent. At the very least, the magical spiced blend has cast a  spell over Trader Joe’s this holiday season. While the supermarket has a wide range of ginger-flavored items,  only some of them have the power to win over a new mate.

Here’s our official guide to what products work best,  ranked from least to most effective.

7. Gingerbread Oat Bars

Trader Joe’s

Gift these only if you’re looking for a mushy brick of a partner because there’s nothing romantic about oat bars, especially these. While only marginally sweet, the classic spice blend does little to increase the flavor profile. Plus it lacks the texture and snap of crisp gingerbread.

Best for wooing: gluten-free folks, people who prefer vacationing at campsites instead of hotels, or if the packaging is any indication, hipster polar bears.

6. Gingermints

Trader Joe’s

In gifting terms, mints are a dangerous proposition. You’re either implying that their breath sucks or that you want to make out with them (or in a particularly precarious situation, both). These ginger-tinged ones might be spicy, but they still reek of desperation. You might as well pass this person a middle school love note: “Do you like me? Circle yes or no!” They’re too on the nose (or rather, the mouth).

Best for wooing: people who still kiss like they’re in eighth grade.

5. Mini Gingerbread Men

Trader Joe’s

Here’s where things get tricky. Don’t mistake these basic gingerbread men for their more upscale cousins. (See #2 on this list.) These cookies are cut-and-dry, but still hit the sweet spot in a pinch.

Best for wooing: people who don’t think outside the box, white boys, one-night-stands.

4. Ginger Beer

Trader Joe’s

Ginger beer would probably be more effective in the romance department if it contained actual alcohol. However, that being said, this beverage does contain TRIPLE the usual amount of ginger so maybe it has powers beyond our current understanding of modern science?

Best for wooing: teetotalers, redheads.

3. Gingerbread House Kit

Trader Joe’s

An adorable first date activity that you can eat afterwards? It’s essentially a rom-com in a box.

Best for wooing: Hansel and Gretel, someone who’s good with their hands.

2. Gingerbread Men Cookies

Trader Joes’s

According to the packaging, these cookies are “dapper gents with fashion sense and great taste.” But we’re pretty sure that’s who they’ll attract as well. So stock up on these if it’s a bow-tie clad fan of Wes Anderson and David Foster Wallace you’re looking for. Also they’re delicious.

Best for wooing: dapper gents with fashion sense and great taste, duh.

1. Gingerbread Biscotti

Trader Joe’s

These biscotti are all about balance. It’s an accessible dessert that’s also sophisticated, with a perfect ratio of spice and sweetness. Which is basically everything we’re looking for in a life partner.

Best for wooing: a well-rounded human, Italians.

Header image courtesy of Trader Joe's.

Jessica is an Associate Editor at Chowhound. Follow her on Twitter @volume_knob for updates on snacks and cats.
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