My boyfriend is a tomato sauce guy. You know, the kind of guy who puts tomato sauce on a lot of things, some of which feel a little inappropriate. (It really bugs me when he puts it on mashed potatoes, for instance.) But love means accepting, even celebrating, your partner’s idiosyncrasies, which is why I have a 5 kg pump-style bottle of tomato sauce sitting in my kitchen.
I have given that guy many thoughtful gifts — a custom-made lighter holder, an old clock shipped from Ukraine, rare comic books — but I don’t think any of those bring him a steady stream of constant joy like that he gets from that 5 kg bottle of tomato sauce. The anxiety that used to accompany the “do we have enough tomato sauce?” question has been banished, because we always have enough tomato sauce. Beyond fried potatoes and the occasional burger, I don’t really use it, but the large tomato sauce has sort of been a gift for me as well; I no longer have to keep an eye on the amount of tomato sauce in the fridge, nor deal with the minor emotional fallout that takes place when we are out of tomato sauce (because we are never out of tomato sauce). Plus the pump is quite fun.
Not everyone likes tomato sauce as much as my boyfriend does, but everyone likes some sort of mundane food thing to that extent, and that thing always makes a great gift. My friend Katie is obsessed with a particular brand of dipping spices (which her mother ships to her from Florida), my friend Christina constantly craves a certain turkey chilli, and I am in constant need of Diet Coke. A.A. Newton showed up at my place with a surprise DC 12-pack last week, and honestly Santa shoulda wrapped it.
The food or beverage doesn’t have to be fancy — in fact, it’s much more effective if it’s not. The cheaper and more common the food, the more you can buy of it, and the more visually impressive your gift will be. My friend Dan — you know Dan — bought a college girlfriend a Costco-sized amount of instant ramen, and she was thrilled by the veritable wall of noodles. (Besides your local restaurant supply store, Costco is the best place to purchase this type of gift.)
Obviously, shelf-stable or freezer friendly items work best here, as a large amount of a perishable item ends up being a large amount of pressure. So stick to things that do well outside of the refrigerator. Tomato sauce does pretty well, which is good, because we still have about two pounds to get through.