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December 04, 2006

In Support of Edible Gifts

Dominic Armato
Judging from the mall parking lots and Michigan Avenue gridlock this week, we're apparently in the midst of the annual holiday shopping insanity. Comprehensive gift idea lists for every conceivable hobby are ubiquitous, and those food-related are certainly no exception. I've already seen a few myself, and while I'm certainly in full support of anything intended to enhance the awesomeness of foodie gift giving, I'm struck by the fact that they all seem to overlook what I think is the coolest category of food-related gifts.

I'm talking ingredients.

Not prepared foods, mind you. Don't get me wrong, in my experience food geeks love to receive superlative chocolates, preserves and pates. But food geeks live to make superlative chocolates, preserves and pates. When you're somebody who loves to cook, there's nothing that makes your heart sing like stunning ingredients. I couldn't possibly count the number of times I've walked by some incredible ingredient in a specialty store only to wish I had a good excuse to turn it into something. White truffles, specialty mustards, Kobe beef, 50-year balsamic, fresh wasabi and yuzu, premium olive oils, Jamon Iberico, lobes of foie gras, specialty bacon, fennel pollen... they may seem mundane or odd next to kitchenwares and cookbooks, but they're all the kinds of things we long to use but never quite manage to justify buying.

Perhaps I'm deluding myself into thinking that these are the kinds of presents that would appeal to anybody beyond the most fanatical and devoted home cooks, I dunno. Am I alone in thinking there's vast untapped potential here?


I'm with you, I would love to receive some 50-year balsamic or some fresh wasabi, but I don't have anyone on my list who I think would truly appreciate those things. Moreover, I know that the people shopping for me have no idea how, why, or where to procure those kinds of things. As passionate foodies, I think sourcing the best ingredients becomes second nature to people like you and I, but I know that my mom wouldn't have the foggiest idea where to procure truly noteworthy olive oil and has no idea what Jamon Iberico is. Short of asking specifically for a lobe of foie gras (and telling her where to buy it), I don't see these kinds of gifts in my future.

All the more reason these lists should include awesome ingredients! It's easy to fall into a Williams-Sonoma and grab something fancy, but premium ingredient sourcing is something people need help with!

I'm trying to decide if I should be the one to provide that help, or if it'll just make me feel dirty.

Good point. It would be great if you provided a list like that - I'd certainly forward it to some of my friends and family.

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