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Gifts for food lovers: Think outside the box (Recipe: hot buttered rum)

Part One of an eight-part series.

Mighty World Farmer's Market, from Jeffrey's Toys, Market Street, San Francisco

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.

Graphite asparagus pencil by Agelio Batle, San Francisco Museum of Craft & Design Gift Shop

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.]

Fogcitydinerbook_2Hot buttered rum

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.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Red curry mussel stew

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I'm really looking forward to more of these posts. I love food oriented gifts, either to give or to get, doesn't matter!

"I'd much rather get a hand-carved wooden spoon than a piece of jewelry." Me too!

Breath of the Wok is one of my favorite books also. Beautiful, beautiful pictures, and terrific recipes.

This is great! Many of my friends sometimes have trouble when I tell them Tom got me the new Jamie Oliver pan set for Christmas last year and that I was ecstatic about the gift. I guess only we foodies understand how cool foodie gifts are! Lydia you are the best!

Hot buttered rum. So good. I first had it in college...taste nothing like the Lifesaver. ;)

How lucky are you to have such a thoughtful husband!

We shop like Ted does when he travels. We try to find items that are made my local artists and not imported. This past summer I found a great martini glass for me. Great gifts from Ted.

Now I wish I had done more shopping at the Ferry Building. Great ideas - do you think Ted would sign on as a consultant for my family's "secret santa" this year?

Great idea for a series of posts! I hope you'll review a few new food books.

One year after my husband watched me grate blocks of cheese on a hand box-grater for a great mac and cheese, he actually gave me a rotary grinder for Christmas.
...and we thought they didn't even notice what we are doing!

Oh, this is terrific, Lydia! I'll look forward to future gift ideas. And Ted is a gem. :)

Lydia, this is such a great idea for a series of posts! I absolutely love it.

The bests gifts are definitely tailored to the person receiving them, and accomplishing that takes not only knowledge of the person, but intuition as well (intuition = really listening to what they say or mention throughout the year).

While some people (especially food lovers) may be easier to shop for than others, it's always rewarding to give someone a gift they really want and love, or better yet, something they didn't realized they wanted yet but come to love immediately!

I cannot wait to see your ideas come to fruition in upcoming posts!

Incredible gift, ideas and man!

My husband has figured out how to find those foodie gifts that make me the happiest over the last year or so! I even get unexpected surprises from him now that he "gets it"!

I love the asparagus!
I love kitchen gifts the most too. I don't care if there are holes in my socks, new kitchen toys tickle and inspire me.

Everyone: Please remind me that we'll have to compare notes in January to see what great foodie gifts we received for the holidays! I can see that I won't be the only one who'll be excited to find a kitchen tool or two alongside the new pair of frou-frou slippers I get every year!

Great idea for a series--look forward to reading more. Yes, foodie gifts are lots more fun than jewelry! My nieces and nephews were thrilled with the inexpensive bento boxes and supplies that I brought them from Ichiban Kan in S.F.

That is a good thought for a series, and given my seemingly never-ending wishlist of food things, I'll be taking notes. And the buttered rum is an interesting drink--I'm sure that would taste great.

These are real cool and unique gifts for the food lover. I wish to have a personal showcase to put up all of these and I will definitely be house-proud upon that :D

A favorite gift one year was a Cuisinart, which caused a friend to comment on how she would have much preferred jewelry. When travelling in Ireland and England, I like to get interesting tea towels (dish towels)as gifts. Might as well have some lovely artwork to look at on something as functional as a towel.

Lydia, Dean shops just like Ted1 I'm so glad when he travels a lot, especially around Christmas. He is good about giving me something I want, but I am usually most excited about the little things he has picked up here and there. I knew he was a keeper early in our marriage when I got a sewing machine AND a microwave (yeah, a long time ago) AND a Cusinart for the same Christmas. Oh, and I covet your asparagus pencil.

Everyone: bento boxes, tea towels, Cuisinarts (more than one!), microwaves... all ideas I'm adding to my gift list.

I love your new series, and just in time for christmas too! ;) I think foodies like us appreciate foodie gifts hehe. Your hubby picks such awesome gifts for you!

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