The holidays are supposed to be about throwing your hands up in the air and relaxing, but those weeks just beforehand are a frenzy of anxiety and anticipation. Some of this is very unfortunately caused by the lovely tradition of giving. As a co-worker made clear today (with “I haven’t even begun!”), holiday gifting can be a chore. But it doesn’t have to be. Especially if you’re a food-obsessed like me.
Giving gifts can be thought of as tokens rather than material objects. They can mean a lot in their own thoughtfulness, even before the gift is received. Or, that “gift” can simply be a token of thoughtfulness itself. Have you ever thought to yourself, I owe that person a favor now when they send you a card? (Yeah, those are my silly cards in the photo, made with the help of friends over much snacking.) I suspect that the institution of cards and letters alone stands testament to a currency of appreciation that’s flowing today, still. That’s the kind of gift I’m talking about–the gift of personal appreciation. Or just fun together. Here are a few easy gift ideas for the stressed-out this holiday season.
1. Give a pledge for a foodie (or other fun) adventure in the near future.
Make a card that says, for instance, “Let me have you over or take you out to dinner sometime soon. On me.” Or buy them a cooking class that you’ll both take together, or tickets to a food or wine tasting event. Turn it on them and let them tell you what you’ll take them out to. Worry about it later (and enjoy it later, too).
2. Give to someone else’s favorite charity.
Do you simply not know what you want or need this year? If so, there are many organizations that have precise goals and benchmarks to meet this year, and they can spell it out to you fondly. If your loved one loves a certain charity, or a cause that a charity furthers, then consider giving to it in appreciation of your giftee. Bonus: it’s a tax-refundable gift.
3. Give good food they can take to the next level.
We’ve come a really, really long way from the times when just about the only fresh food you could send someone was a box of absurdly perfect-looking pears. Everyone from Amazon to Google is doing the Fresh Direct thing, but you might want to try an experience that will excite the serious foodie a bit more. For instance, if your giftee is a guy, what about a box of prime stuff from the Mantry? Depending on your location, you could give a trial run or sampling of locally-sourced grub from Quinciple, Good Eggs, Blue Apron, Farmigo, Plated, and more. Personally, I’d be pleased as punch if someone signed me up for a CSA share in my neighborhood. Or just gave me something from theirs. Good food is fresh, local, special stuff and that makes a good gift to me.
4. Give food that’s made with love–your own.
Your famous cranberry jam or candied nuts. A festive-looking jar of gardinera pickles. Your secret-recipe steak sauce. I’ll admit that I’ve never thought I was a good enough baker to gift someone my cookies or baked goods around the holidays. (Plus, don’t people have enough of those around then?) But I can make a jar of nice-looking pickles—of anything, from carrots to fiddlehead ferns. So whatever your forte is, just call yourself an artisanal food maker and skip the crowds buying small-batch grub at Brooklyn Flea instead.
5. Clip together a handmade cookbook.
How to choose the right cookbook to buy for the foodie on your list? Try to think back to the dishes you enjoyed together. What did they compliment you on most when you had them over for dinner? What kind of dish do they love seeking out in restaurants? Collect a best-of bunch of recipes and make a crafty little cookbook for them instead, gleaned from your personal knowledge of their food preferences. That’s a customized gift that’s all about the thought (which counts most).