I do not do Black Friday, or Saturday or Sunday for that matter. Nor do I do cyber Monday, though that would be easier, I suppose. I cannot abide the thought of all the crowds jostling and pushing over mechanical hamsters and 52” flat screens. Or spending 15 hours camped out in a freezing parking lot to save $100 on a gaming system. This year, after the big Thanksgiving feast, I stayed at home, curled up reading new cookbooks I’d been saving for that weekend, diving into a good novel, watching old movies and getting creative with leftovers.
That is not to say that I’m a Scrooge. I Christmas shop, and I am quite good at picking out the right present for the right person, if I may say so myself. I start early, for one thing. So now that December is officially here, I thought I’d share some of my festive favorites, in no particular order and with no motive other than the spirit of sharing.
In this mass-market, chain store saturated world we live I have become addicted to etsy.com. If you haven’t discovered it, you should. It’s like an online bazaar, where individual artisans and crafters sell their creations. I have bought kitchen accessories, aprons, jewelry and lots of gifts. You can pay by credit card or PayPal, so it’s secure, and my experiences have been flawless. The items are totally unique and reasonably priced. Just beware, it is a rabbit hole – once you get in you may find it hard to get out.
And speaking of cookbooks, here are my favorites at the minute. If you know kids who love to cook (and parent who like to do it with them) Jill O’Connor’s Sticky, Chewy, Messy Gooey Treats for Kids is a must. Like her original Sticky Chewy book it is full of cool photographs and decadent recipes that will get everyone in the kitchen. Any avid cook on your list may well have picked it up already, but Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back-to-Basics is a real treat, great for cooks of all levels. Now if you are really generous, any serious food lover on your list would love the gargantuan bible of cooking, now in English and updated, Larousse Gastronomique. For something slightly less daunting, there is I Know How to Cook, an English version of a classic, household standard French cookbook. And after all this holiday eating, get back on the healthy track without loosing any flavor with Ellie Krieger’s So Easy. And check out my Amazon store on the right side of the page for my favorite kitchen gadgets, cookbooks and foodie movies and books.
Foodie gifts are big on my list as well, and you can’t get more fun and personal than Blends for Friends Teas – specially blended teas to match the personality of your gift recipient, with a cleverly written label. Check it out. I also love Penzey’s Spices gift sets – you can build your own to personalize, say Paris seasoning, Indian curry powder and Krakow Nights for the world traveler, or buy the already packaged ones. They even do boxes with the mini bottles now. I also love the adorable The Chef Set flags – post-it flags specifically for cookbooks. And check out the site as well for funny gifts for all ages. And who wouldn’t love Zingerman’s Bacon of the Month Club! Or try Foodzie for lots of unique food gifts, including bacon jam! And for a taste of Memphis, send some Central Barbecue anywhere in the country.
So you know someone who is not a foodie (imagine that!)? I love Liz Earle’s great gift sets. She makes all natural, environmentally-friendly skin and body care. She’s based out of England, so it’s likely to be a unique gift. And I crave just about everything on iomoi.com, from Lucite trays to stationery to coasters and salt and pepper shakers, all uniquely personalized. The bread bowls form Potsalot Pottery in New Orleans are a favorite of mine and their other handmade pieces are truly unique.
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. Water.org provides clean water to people around the world. They’ll even send an e-card for you. 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.
I’d love to start a discussion on great gift ideas, so go to The Runaway Spoon on Facebook and let me know your thoughts.
Above all, have a happy holiday season!
Culinary Compulsion says
Fantastic recommendations!!! Love the site!
Lonsdale Green says
A great column! Just what I need as I take a (brief) break from holiday cooking. Thanks!
What a great discussion! Just what I needed to get started. Thanks.