I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Festive Favorites 2010

The holidays are here, and that means lots of eating, and lots of shopping.  I am not a big wander-around-the-mall type, or a fight-your-way-through-the-sales fan, but I do love picking out gifts for the special people in my life.  And I am told that I am pretty good at it, too.  A little sofa surfing is my ideal form of holiday shopping, so I thought I’d share some of my festive favorites.  For no other reason than the spirit of holiday sharing.

If anyone on your list is a cook or food lover (and that includes you), the must-have gift is a subscription to Canal House Cooking.  This seasonal series of mini-cookbooks is full of amazing recipes and spectacular photography.  No food aficionado should be without them.  The cookbook gift for the season may well be James Beard’s American Cookery, a re-packaged and illustrated edition of the classic.  I’d love to receive the marvelous Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table (hint, hint), Tessa Kiros’s books are magnificent, the kind any food lover will want to curl up with and pore over.  Falling Cloudberries is a good start, but they are all well worth a look. The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook is a must-have for any lover of Southern cooking, and it benefits a great organization preserving the heritage of Southern cooking. The I Hate to Cook Book is a recent re-issue 50th anniversary edition.  I don’t imagine you’ll actually cook from it, but it is one of the funniest reads I’ve enjoyed in a long time.  Spoiler alert: folks on my list are getting a copy.  And check out The Spoon’s Store powered by Amazon on the right side of the page for my favorite kitchen gadgets, cookbooks and foodie movies and books.

A fun, happy little gift for any kitchen dweller, these themed sticky notes are sure to please.  The Foodie magnetic poetry kit would make any fridge more delicious.  Funky, fun and personalized colorful tempered glass cutting boards are a useful and personal gift.  And anything from Felix Doolittle is amazing, but the new personalized recipe cards are a real treat. Useful and practical, but also a great gift, personalized Polar Bear Coolers are great for men (and women, I have two).

Fun and functional and perfect to have around this holiday season are simple napkins on a roll – but in real cotton or linen fabric.  They are good looking and practical, can be washed several times and then biodegrade.  If you love giving gifts from your own kitchen, I am sure you love to present them in fun and pretty packaging.  With these PaniMold wooden baking molds, bake your gift and wrap it all in one stylish package. Decorate your packages with personalized ribbon and gift stickers from Namemakers.  Or top off your packages with personalized photo gift tags from Cardstore. Love patterned baking cups, but not how they fade when you actually cook with them? Then try Sutton Gourmet Baking Papers that retain their bright colors. 

But if you don’t’ feel like making your own food gifts, let someone else do it for you.  Custom blended Granola from MixMyGranola for your health conscious friends, or Chocomize custom designed chocolate bars for the indulgent. And these sites all offer gift certificates, so your friends could choose their own custom treat.  The gift I gave last year that produced the happiest response was custom blended tea from Blends for FriendsOlive and Sinclair make beautifully packaged, stone ground artisan chocolates that any chocoholic will truly appreciate. And get healthy with hand ground whole grain flours from Funder Farm.  Their baking mixes, like Chocolate Chip Bars and Blueberry Cobbler, are great, and make a lovely and welcome gift.

And yes, I do buy gifts that are not food-related, believe it or not.  A handbag or accessory from 1154 Lill Studio is a great gift, even more fun to give one of their design-a-bag kits.  Cath Kidston’s decidedly British, flowery accessories make great gifts, and the cases for all of today’s technology and gadgets will brighten any workload.  Savannah Bee Company’s Royal Jelly Body Butter is a super-rich treat that comes beautifully packaged.

But maybe the best gift of all is giving on behalf of someone you love to someone in need.  There are so many great organizations to give to that will create special cards you can wrap up for your recipient or have it sent directly to them.  These cool water bottles are useful and 100% of the proceeds benefit water.org, which provides clean water around the world.  And Heifer International is really cheeky.  Give a friend a goat, or a hive of bees, that will help a community sustain itself.  They have a gift catalog and make great cards for giving. And for all those peanut butter sandwiches you make during the year, make a gift of Plumpy Nut, a therapeutic nut paste feeding thousands of hungry children through UNICEF. And as we continue to read that 1 in 4 children in the United States are food insecure, Share Our Strength is working to combat that appalling statistic.  And don’t forget your local food bank.

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