Monday, December 22, 2008

Tip #7: Cooking Gifts, Courtesy of the Recession

It's no surprise to ANYONE that we're sitting smack dab in the middle of a recession, but when it comes to doling out the holiday gifts, budget is definitely an issue.

I've been channeling my inner-Oprah and I have to say, I feel really, really good about it. I didn't want to spend oodles of money this year (nor could I, thank you very much) on gifts for my staff or my cooking-loving friends, but I didn't want to go with the typical baked goods as a gift. I figure that if I'm watching my waistline, others may be as well. And I love a good cookie, but please, how many cookies can you eat right now (and no, 12,000 is NOT the answer).

So, the dilemma: How to give my staff et al a gift that they would appreciate and (hopefully) treasure without spending tons of cash. The solution? Cookbooks.

No silly, not just any cookbooks, but cookbooks from my private collection (doesn't that sound fancy??). Cookbooks that I LOVE (yes; it's possible to love a cookbook, especially if it has Tyler Florence on the cover :). Cookbooks that I use, and enjoy, and think are 'da bomb. Cookbooks that, believe it or not, I'll miss.

I went through the book shelves and I chose a cookbook or two specific to each person I work with. I thought long and hard about the woman, about her likes (and dislikes in Kerry's case, lol), her specialties, her lifestyle, and maybe where she wants to go as a cook. I struggled (really!), but came up with what I THINK was the perfect match for each. Here's how I went:
  • Caroline: Mad Martha Cookies & Cake Love (plus the promise of a field trip to DC to visit the Love cafe). She's my baker and I know that she'll use these and bake many, many wonderful things.
  • Alex: My dot the i's and cross the t's gal. I'm more confident in her abilities than she is, so it was Cooking School Secrets to give her some confidence and one of my favorite (and autographed) Barefoot Contessa books. Good food done simply and well.
  • Courtney: Tough, yet completely generous and giving; truly your go-to gal in tough times, and always the one to offer to bring a little something to your get-together, so two books by Nicole Aloni (love her!) with great stories and recipes I know that Courtney will use. With a little luck, I'll be the recipient of some of her yummy dishes yet to come...
  • Wendy: This girl! She's also a super-busy mom managing kids, work, husband, and me! She loves to cook and eat, so Tyler Florence seemed like a good match to me. Great pics, a few new ingredients, but accessible and really tasty
  • Sharon: One of the smartest, coolest, and most well-traveled folks I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, let alone working with. It was Anne Willan's gorgeous almost coffee-table book on the country cooking of France; no question about it.
  • Kerry: Girlfriend can cook, and she is always looking to learn more. She asks questions, she tries new things, and she truly cooks for her family every night. Seriously, who does that? She is an absolute pleasure to work with and I learn a ton from her as well. For Kerry, it was books by Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page . I gave her Becoming a Chef, which came out when I was in culinary school and swept us all away, plus their book Culinary Artistry, because she is an artist with food and will someday, I think, become a master.

So there it is. As I told them, you can think of these as used cookbooks or you can know that I truly chose each book for each person and how wonderful I think you are. Christmas on a budget? Yup. Christmas with a little more thought, and a little more soul? Absolutely. And I'll take that anytime. Now it's your turn to gift to the cook in YOUR life.

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