Whole Story

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The Value Guru Confronts the Grinch

I'm a terrible shopper. Clothes. Household goods. Gifts. Even when it comes to food, despite all my good "guru" advice, I buy more than I need, struggle to carry it all home on my bicycle, struggle again to fit it in my fridge and cabinet and then struggle to use up all the so-beautiful-I-can't-resist fresh veggies before they've given up all their nutrients. Fortunately, I'm a creative cook and do manage to let very very little go to waste, but back to gifts... Maybe it's my humble beginnings, or my grandparent's humble beginnings or just the Grinch in me; I can't stand the thought of a pointless gift. Nor can I stand the thought of a low-quality gift…some plastic thing that makes someone laugh or smile for about 2 seconds then gets forgotten for 5 years in a drawer somewhere until it gets tossed. Don't get me wrong; being a food lover, I am perfectly fine with the temporary satisfaction of something that tastes amazing. I just believe it really should be amazing and memorable if it's going to be temporary. Food, therefore is often my gift solution. First, my terrible shopper steps in with big, unrealistic ideas. I want to give everyone I know a plane ticket to Malta to eat the simple, incredible bread and cheese meal I had there once. Or I'd like to fly my entire family to one beautiful spot where we'd prepare and share a meal all together. Is there a way to prepare all the small bites recipes I worked on for The Whole Deal and send them a selection? Probably not. Darn. Instead, I build boxes and baskets of food tailored to the recipients. They know how much I love food and I hope that means they feel the love from me through the food to them. Homemade food-and bodycare-gifts are fun. Many cookie recipes will ship okay if packed carefully. You can even make homemade crackers and top with an interesting salt. Homemade gifts are always well received, but what I really love is to shop for all the wonderful, indulgent and rare treats and condiments that come to the store for the harvest and holiday seasons. In my work, by this time of year, I've been hearing about and seeing these things for months and months before the holiday season, sometimes I even get to taste them. And then, finally, everything is in the store and I have fun picking out the holiday goodies, special jams and chocolates, olive oils and vinegars, crackers and brittles. (My favorite is our Panettone... OMG!) If you think I'm just a grocery store dork and food is an odd gift, then make it something more. Add a gift card, that's simple and who wouldn't want one? Or, one year I sent everyone bottles and jars of my favorite condiments along with vegetable steamers and a little homemade booklet of ideas and recipes for enjoying steamed veggies. And this year my mother-who doesn't enjoy cooking-may get condiments from me, too. I'll add a food storage system and-here's the real love-a promise from me that I'll make extra when I cook freezable meals on the weekends so I can share a few frozen servings with her. So, while I'm truly a grinch when it comes to silly nonsense gifts, I have a big heart when it comes to food and the pennies I've been saving for gift-giving season are lovingly spent on something I can believe in…good food. If you've got time right now-congrats if you do-share your food gift solutions. I'm sure plenty of folks are starting to get desperate for gift ideas.