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Gift Ideas for Foodies | The Best Presents for a Foodie
The Best Foodie Gifts
Finding the perfect gift for a foodie can be agonizing, especially if you don't consider yourself a food and beverage connoisseur. You want to get this person something he or she will enjoy, but you also don't want to risk buying an unknown 'gourmet' item that turns out to be a less than welcome present.
My dad has always, always been the family cook. To this day, he remains the only individual I know has made French onion dip all the way from scratch - all the way from the raw onions! Over the years, I've figured out what types of gifts my foodie father does and does not enjoy. I've also enjoyed some pretty spectacular gifts from him! My list of foodie gift ideas can help you pick the best gift for the foodie in your life, and my tips on what to avoid can help you avoid gift-giving flops.
Books for Foodies
Many die-hard foodies have favorite cookbook authors or publishers. Even if you think the pictures in a specific book are beautiful, your foodie might not enjoy it, at all. Unless you're going with a tried and true standby, like The Joy of Cooking, that you know s/he doesn't already have, (or the individual specifically requested a certain book) I think it is best to avoid cookbooks. This does not mean you can't give a foodie books - just buy him or her interesting books on food, foodways, the Slow Food movement, etc. These are my top picks:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. This book is the tale of one family's efforts to only eat locally for the entire year. It's entertaining, well written, and includes some bonus recipes!
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan literally changed my life. He's written several other food books, but I think this is, by far, his best. Pollan traces the history of corn, discusses modern food shipping and processing practices, and examines four different ways of eating. To tell the history of food, he purchases a meal at McDonalds, cooks dinner with 'organic' ingredients found at a chain grocery store, dines on local ingredients farmed by others, and puts a lot of effort into a meal made from ingredients he foraged or hunted. It is an eye-opening read!
Zingerman's Guide to Good Eating by Ari Weinzweig is a decade old now, but it is still an invaluable resource for the foodie who wants to learn more. The book isn't really a cooking book, even though it does include recipes. It's more of a buyer's guide and consumer manual that teaches you how to find and select real olive oils and vinegars, the differences between types of pasta, how honeys made from different flowers taste, well, different, and so much more. Weinzweig is a founding partner of Zingermnan's Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan, one of the United State's foremost foodie establishments.
Kitchen Gadget Gifts for Foodies
Kitchen gadget gifts are tricky. Foodies simply aren't imporessed by a lot of novelty kitchen items! Instead of reaching for the latest gizmo that seems cool, find a highly-rated, high quality tool s/he actually needs and will use. Here are my top picks, all presents given to me by foodie father:
- Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peelers. These little guys are far from ordinary! They're easier to hold than a traditional peeler and light years better. I have a set of three and I love them. Their blades are super sharp carbon steel and they cut through pretty much anything. I use them to peel mangos and they have no problem with the tough skin, and I regularly use them to slice carrots, too. They do need to be hand washed, though - a dishwasher can rust and dull them.
- A Tovolo silicone spatula. This is the best spatula I've ever used, hands down. Kids may hate it, though, because it gets the bowl so clean they'll be nothing left to lick! I recommend the stainless steel handle model for its durability. This one is dishwasher safe, making it very easy to take care of.
- The Taylor instant read thermometer. Granted, a lot of foodies already have a good thermometer, but if they happen to be struggling with an annoying dial thermometer or you're buying for a foodie in training, I highly recommend the Taylor instant read thermometer. It claims to be waterproof, but I've never put mine through the dishwasher just to be safe. It has, however, been accidentally left outside in the rain a few times after some grill-side use. Even with consistent use, the original battery in mine lasted for more than 8 years.
- The RSVP Precision stainless steel colander. This colander puts all other colanders to shame! It comes in both a 3 quart and a 5 quart model, so you can pick whichever suits your budget better. It was awarded the "Favorite" rating by Cook's Illustrated in their 2011 colander review with very good reason. The numerous tiny holes drain anything quickly without sending pasta, beans, rice, etc. down the drain. Yes, you can actually wash or drain rice in this colander. That is impressive!
There are countless other kitchen gadgets in the world, but these three are my top picks for foodies because they're genuinely useful, don't break the bank, and I know how well each one of them works.
Food Gifts for Foodies
Food gifts are the trickiest of all! It seems like companies today slap 'gourmet' on every box and package mediocre items with fancied up labels to trick unsuspecting customers. The best way to buy an outstanding edible for your foodie is to only use a trustworthy source.
Zingerman's Deli, co-founded by Weinzweig, operates on online store with affordable flat rate shipping. I was once lucky enough to attend a week long foodways conference co-hosted by Zingerman's and it was amazing. I had a behind the scenes tour of their bakery (and got to take home a bag of bread!!), visited their store, and had so much deliciousness to eat I'm surprised my clothes still fit me at week's end. In the shop, I tasted balsamic vinegar that was so delicious a person could drink it. I know it sounds like an exaggeration, but it's true. I would trust anything purchased from the Zingerman's website as a gift to the most discerning foodie.
Locally-sourced items are also a good bet because chances are really good they're superior to whatever you'll find at the local supermarket. Grass fed beef, free range eggs, and fruits picked fresh off the tree really do taste better. Not sure how to find these farmers? A good place to start is by looking at the Slow Food website and searching for local chapters. Then, navigate to your local chapter's website and look for information about partners, events, and farmer's markets. The Slow Food USA local chapter search page is useful in the states, or use the international Slow Food page to find a chapter near you!
Have you given foodie gifts that turned out to be flops?
Foodie Gift Ideas
Buying the perfect present for a foodie can be a daunting task, but you can't go wrong with a foodie book, tried and true kitchen gadget s/he can actually use, or some unique, local products. If you're still looking for more ideas, find a local kitchen store and go talk to the folks working there to find out what items are most popular and which are just novelties. Or, when really, really stumped, just ask your foodie what s/he wants. I know it sort of spoils the surprise, but people who want specific items are pleased to get them, even if they know what's coming.
No matter which route you take, you can make this year the one you give the foodie in your life a gift he or she really enjoys and uses!