Part One of an eight-part series.
My father wasn't the most creative gift giver in the world.
For every occasion, he went to the same jewelry store and picked out a brooch or necklace much fancier than anything my mother would wear for everyday. Some she loved, some she didn't, but she believed that gifts should be for the person, not for the household, and, to his credit, my dad never put a big red bow on a washing machine.
My mother wasn't a food person. If she were, she might have loved a sesame seed grinder, a tagine, a stack of cookbooks, or a Viking six-burner stove -- all gifts for the household, but all things a foodie might love. I know. I love mine.
Call me crazy, but I'd much rather get a hand-carved wooden spoon than a piece of jewelry.
My husband Ted knows that about me, and over the past 18 years, since food writing became my work, he's become the most creative searcher-outer of eclectic, fun, practical, interesting, wacky, lovely, and downright cool stuff, whether from halfway around the world, or around the corner.
Inspired by Ted's ideas, and by gifts I've received and purchased for my food friends, every Tuesday from now until your favorite December holidays I'll be sharing gift suggestions for the food lover in your life.
I asked Ted how he comes up with such great gifts:
I love to look for gifts when I travel. Finding books, implements, pantry items and other things that are not available at home is really fun and often gives focus to my explorations of a place. Shopping bags are a great souvenir, always useful and available -- for example, at the Ferry Plaza Market in San Francisco, they had nice bags for a dollar, and canvas bags with the Market's logo for a little more. I'm lucky that Lydia has a huge collection of wooden spoons; it's easy to find good additions everywhere. And music to play during cooking is fun to find, for example, belly dance music to go with her large collection of tagines and the great meals we have made in them.
Where do you shop?
Markets and open air food markets are my favorite places to look, especially in other countries. I just returned from Peru and loved the markets there. I occasionally stop at yard sales near my house -- I try to go without any expectation of what I'll find.
Unexpected places to find gifts for food people?
Airports. Street sellers. Hotel gift shops. Hardware stores. Museum shops. Toy stores. I get ideas from listening to the radio, too.
Favorite gift you've bought?
A cookbook that had a big impact -- The Breath of a Wok -- because it is beautiful, useful, and has had a lasting influence on our cooking at home. One time we used the book for a memorable New Year's Eve of Chinese cooking. And last year friends visiting Shanghai found the wok maker featured in the book and brought us one of his amazing hand-hammered woks.
Ted surprised me with the gifts featured in this post when we were in San Francisco during BlogHer this past summer. While I was blogging, he explored the city, and found these goodies along the way. How cool is that?
[Next Tuesday: gift ideas for kids who love to cook.]
If you're planning to stay up late to watch election returns, a drink might come in handy. And though this recipe comes from the San Francisco classic Fog City Diner Cookbook, by Cindy Pawlcyn, it's particularly good for a cool November night in New England.
1-1/2 oz Myers's Rum
1 Tbsp *hot buttered rum mix (see below)
Boiling water to fill glass
1 cinnamon stick
1 roaring fire (optional)
Heat a 6- to 7-oz short-stemmed cocktail glass by filling it with hot water. Pour out the water, pour in the rum, add the Rum Mix, and pour in boiling water to fill. Garnish with a cinnamon stick. Best served by the (optional) roaring fire.
*Hot buttered rum mix
4 Tbsp dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
Pinch each of nutmeg, cinnamon, ground cloves
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Zest of 1/2 orange
Mix all ingredients together and keep chilled.
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