Food is a good gift, though giving it can be tricky, as — due to societal norms — most people are already getting absolutely bombarded with cookies and candy this time of year. Luckily, those aren’t your only options. There are plenty of edible delights you can bestow upon your loved ones that fall outside the realm of the confectionary, and I have taken the opportunity to round up a few of my favourites.
A large amount of their favourite mundane food
Everyone has at least one pedestrian condiment, seasoning, or consumable sundry that they burn through at an alarming rate. I have two — Diet Coke and Maldon salt. For my significant other, it’s ketchup. As I’ve mentioned previously, identifying and then purchasing an obscene amount of someone’s favourite mundane food item makes for a fantastic gift:
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.)
I have given my boyfriend a large amount of ketchup several times now, and he is always — without fail — absolutely delighted by it. (Is it a little lazy? Sure, but there’s nothing wrong with buying someone a lot of something you know they love.)
I will never stop recommending fancy flake salt as a gift. Nearly everyone has salt in their kitchen (usually table salt), but few have finishing salt, which is often overlooked as a frivolity. But it’s not. Those crunchy little sodium chloride pyramids are important, dang it. They provide flavour and texture, and just a pinch can make a dish feel special, and finished (hence the name “finishing salt”). Maldon and Jacobsen are both great, but Maldon is about half the price. (You can also transform Kosher salt into beautiful flakes in your Instant Pot, if you want to DIY it.)
Delicious lemon curd (that you can make in the microwave)
Curds are technically custards and, though they are pretty chill as far as custards go, they require fairly precise temperature control. Luckily, A.A. Newton has figured out how to exert that control with the humble microwave, and the result is a perfectly tart and sweet curd that anyone can whip up in mere minutes. It’s good on cake and ice cream, but no one would fault you (or those you gift it to) for eating it with a spoon.
Homemade chilli oil
When you give someone homemade chilli oil, you are truly giving them the gift of flavour. Eggs, plain rice, dumplings, pizza, and even ice cream are all improved by a drizzle of this intensely aromatic and complex condiment. (Did I mention it’s also vegan?) A.A. Newton can walk you through the process here, but it’s really just a matter of pouring hot oil over toasted spices. It’s not hard. In fact, I’d call it “easy,” though you should take care when handling hot oil, obviously.
A festive candy cane syrup
Candy cane syrup is so easy to make, it almost feels like cheating, but the resulting syrup is so fun, so vibrant, and so pepperminty, you’ll be glad you took the time melt a handful of crushed candy canes into bright red syrup (and so will the people you give it to). It’s good in hot cocoa, good on ice cream, and good with bourbon. (And it’s just really pretty, which has to count for something.)
A bottle of bespoke Irish cream
I made a bottle of this stuff about two weeks ago, and I did not share a single drop with anyone else. Homemade Irish cream is so good, so creamy, and so worth the minimal amount of effort required on your part. Plus, if you make it yourself, you can switch out the Irish whiskey for bourbon (and make Kentucky cream) or use any other spirit of your choosing, and you can play around with extracts (I’m adding almond to my next batch) for a truly bespoke dessert liqueur. (Need cocktail ideas? It’s absolutely bangin’ with Fernet.)
A bottle of their favourite cocktail
People who love drinking cocktails do not necessarily love making cocktails, but they would (most likely) love to receive a pre-mixed bottle of their favourite libation, if not several jars of several different libations. If you go the jarred, single cocktail route, all you have to do is mix the beverage (over ice), strain it into a jar, close the jar, and pop it in the freezer until you’re ready to gift it. If you want to give a whole bottle of one cocktail, check out our guide on how to do so — and keep in mind that all-booze cocktails (like the Negroni or Manhattan) work best for batching. The American Trilogy (a delicious rye cocktail) batches very well, and we just happen to have a video that shows you how to make it (and it’s right above this paragraph).