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Food Gifts

December 9, 2011

Let’s talk about gifts. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and guess they’ve been on your mind recently. After all, it is the Christmas shopping season. I say that because presents weren’t historically a part of Chanukah. In the grand scheme of Jewish traditions it’s a fairly recent add-on. Sure, we’ll get presents for the kids. But the exciting parts about Chanukah for me are the potato latkes and the jelly donuts.

As far as I am concerned, gifts are always optional. Believe it or not, I learned of this opinion from none other than Miss Manners. I know, it’s very unexpected. But manners are a mystery to me. For example, it’s perfectly okay to eat asparagus with your fingers, even in front of the queen. However, one should never dip one’s fingers in a finger bowl, even if they are soiled.

Still, on the subject of presents, Miss Manners surely represents the minority opinion. People feel compelled to get gifts not only for their friends, loved ones and colleagues, but also for employees, caretakers, and ordinarily faceless service workers. Thank goodness for Starbucks gift cards, right?

I’m not going to touch that last part, but I do have some ideas on what to get food lovers.

People need less junk. And there is so much junk for food lovers it’s not even funny. Some of it is cute, some of it is clever, and some of it is even functional. It would be fast and easy to fill my kitchen with just coffee making tools. Mrs. Fussy might suggest that’s already happened, but she has no idea.

Kitchen tools are very personal to a cook. You could buy someone a good knife that they will have for a lifetime, and that’s a very generous gift. But you really shouldn’t. Knives especially need to be felt in the hand of the user. There is no one single best knife brand or size for everyone. And if you are going to spend a lot of money on something special, I think it’s best to make sure it fills the bill.

So what makes a great gift?

Personally, I’m into consumables. And not just any consumables, precious ones. These aren’t things on anyone’s wish list, mostly because they aren’t top of mind. Few people are sitting around pining for a jar of caviar, but when they get it as a gift it’s more than just a present, it’s an experience.

The memory of useful stuff fades. Experiences last a lifetime. And after all, shouldn’t a present be something the recipient would enjoy, but is otherwise much too sensible to buy on their own?

So if you are thinking about spices, how about a nice jar of high quality saffron. For the baker in your life, a bundle of good vanilla beans would surely make their face light up, and the cocktillian might faint after they realize the little chunk of goo you’ve given them is actually genuine “beachcast” ambergris.

Instead of a few bottles of wine, get them one amazing bottle. However, you might want to give your recipient an expiration date to enjoy the gift, lest it linger in their closest until it is markedly less amazing. Open That Bottle Night is always a good occasion to pull the cork of something special, and it doesn’t fall too far after Christmas.

Do not get a basket full of Italian goodies, a lot of that stuff isn’t that great to begin with, and will soon be forgotten after it’s consumed. A very small bottle of deeply aged vinegar on the other hand, will be treasured and enjoyed a drop at a time for as long as humanly possible. And in every drop, your generosity will be praised. Plus the memory of that vinegar will linger for decades.

Hopefully these are enough examples for you to get the gist. You’re smart. Run with this. And if you have any questions let me know. Direct messages over Twitter get the fastest immediate responses. And in the spirit of the holidays, I’ll stay on top of gift related questions in the comment section.

All of this is to suggest you skip the mall this weekend. It’s going to be madness.

The smart food lovers will be at the Delmar Farmers Market on Saturday, picking up some of The Cheese Travelers wares. Eric will only be there for another two weeks: this one and the next one. Then the Delmar Winter Market closes until spring, and I’ll probably slip back into my sad, cheese-deprived existence.

In other gift news, keep your eyes on All Over Albany. There may be some additional ideas in the near future about some local things you could get me for Chanukah. As it turns out the one I want most is the least expensive of the lot, and coincidentally the one that’s most likely to send me straight to hell.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2011 10:47 am

    Oh, Daniel. Yes. Yes yes yes. I love this post.

    Also re: cheese – I get the feeling my root cellar might make an excellent cheese cave this winter. Not to give you any ideas or anything.

  2. December 9, 2011 11:28 am

    I know this is a food blog, but let’s get right down to it.

    Snow tires, most awesome gift EVER.

    Cheese logs, vinegar, potatoes and whatnot, those are for amateurs.

    Snow tires or GTFO.

    • December 9, 2011 12:00 pm

      That’s funny because the year I moved in with my boyfriend to his house at the top of a mountain, on a dirt road, that’s exactly what he gave me and that year it was indeed the best gift ever!

      Now that I’m back in the city, I’m thinking less function more indulgence.

  3. December 9, 2011 3:54 pm

    I’m looking for ideas myself, which is odd, as I need to buy for someone who bakes, and so do I. But I have most of what I need for that, and I imagine she does, too. I could just make something, but it’s a Secret Santa with a spending limit, which means, y’know, I should probably spend something. Maybe fancy chocolate, with some sort of container, like a mug of chocolate or something. Feels like a bit of a cop-out, though.

    • December 9, 2011 6:31 pm

      How about going online to King Arthur and getting an ingredient that’s hard to find in most supermarkets? I’m a baker and every time I go on there I discover something that I “must” have and have only heard about.

  4. Tess permalink
    December 9, 2011 5:38 pm

    Really good organic cocoa/chocolate or coffee are always welcome! The Glens Falls Shirt Factory is having an open house this weekend – there is an awesome tea shop there – another good consumable!

  5. Kate permalink
    December 10, 2011 7:55 pm

    I’m trying to do either local or homemade – got the stepdad some rare pear, making mom a party basket – frozen dough for crackers, some of my homemade jams, preserves, salsa, apple infused vodka and blackberry infused brandy etc. I’ve not gotten to the Delmar farmer’s market to meet the Cheese Traveler but I think he should cross the river for the winter and come to the Troy market – I think I could find a lot to give from him.

  6. December 10, 2011 10:12 pm

    Hi Kate,

    Thank you for your enthusiasm regarding The Cheese Traveler.

    The Saturday Delmar Farmers Market has been a great start for The Cheese Traveler. I would love to get into more farmers markets in the Capital District. One of the challenges is that most of the other large farmers markets — Troy, Schenectady, Saratoga — I believe, are producer only markets (Delmar is also a producer only but they have the leeway to consider vendors on a case by case basis). I am looking into being a vendor at other markets but it may take some time.

    We would still love to see you at Delmar for the last indoor market of the year this coming Saturday, December 17th.



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