It’s the time of year when we all start panicking about buying holiday gifts – unless you’re my mother, in which case you finished your holiday shopping weeks ago and have already presented wrapped gifts to your incompetent daughter. There’s something about getting Christmas presents from your Jewish mother in early November that delivers that extra measure of guilt with the festive spirit. Also, I should say that really, this isn’t actually the time of year that I start panicking about present buying. That time is called mid-December. (This is why my mother thinks I’m incompetent. Surprise: she’s right!) However, as Thrifty Gal reminded me, people with blogs have to think about these things early, or early-ish. So I have roused myself from the state of complete denial with which I like to approach the festive season and investigated the delicious world of giftage for the food lover in your life.
Handpainted Eco Tiffin Set, £44.95
I’ve always wanted a good tiffin set – well, really, what I want is someone to come round my office at lunchtime with a tiffin filled with delicious hot food, but that’s rather harder to achieve. Failing that, though, what could be more stylish and environmentally sound than a Fair Trade tiffin set from India? It’s a beautiful object that will surely encourage people to make their own lunch. Available online from Spirit of Nature.
Or, if you’re buying for someone with kids, how about a Japanese bento lunchbox kit from the Japan Centre, complete with cute Japanese pop culture picks and animal-shaped sauce holders? At just £15.79 it’s an inexpensive gift and who can resist animal sauce holders?
Champagne saucers, £25
I’ve always felt faintly cheated by champagne flutes. Yes, yes, I understand that the narrow glass holds the bubbles better but I think a good 90% of the pleasure of champagne is pretending you’re having a too, too decadent time in an Evelyn Waugh novel. If there’s not even the technical possibility of someone dipping their boobs in the stuff then what’s the point? So these old-fashioned champagne saucers appeal to my flapper imagination and they’re as festive as you can get.
The White Company, £25 a pair.
(I know, feel a bit dirty recommending a shop called The White Company, for goodness sake, but they do have some nice things…)
Some good vinegar, £21 and up (way up)
People tend to buy foodies things like flavoured oils and vinegars, which can be lovely but often end up languishing on the shelf, because how often does your recipe really need bergamot vinegar or kumquat oil? What people who cook really want is high quality basics – sherry, wine or even balsamic vinegar that is pricier than what you’d usually buy for yourself. Splashing out on London Fine Foods 12 year old aged sherry vinegar at £36 won’t break the bank but it will give a foodie something he probably wouldn’t have bought for himself. If that seems a bit steep, they have lovely Banyuls red wine vinegar for £21.90 or, if you are feeling especially generous, you could go for proper balsamic vinegar from Modena for £117.
Persian treats from Harvey Nicks, £9.95
Raahat is the Persian version of Turkish Delight, and of course Harvey Nichols have the most luxe kind available. Their raahat comes in rose petal, rose and pistachio, and sour cherry flavours, and the same company also makes seriously appealing Persian candy floss (pashmak) in flavours like saffron and orange blossom. For real, saffron candy floss? I’ve never been a fan of the fairground stuff but that sounds kind of amazing. A must-have stocking filler for the foodie in your life.
Brindisa Hamper, £29.95 – £125
No foodie wouldbe unhappy with a gift from Brindisa, London’s chichi Spanish food store. They do a range of Christmas hampers, filled with anchovies, almonds, pimentón and sausage. They can get a bit pricey, but it’s easy enough to make up your own box of goodies at a price you can afford – a nice thick tranche of jamón iberico, or, for a stocking filler, how about a tin of saffron for a tenner?
We should all be supporting our favourite local retailers, and although it’s easy to go the online or the high street routes for holiday shopping, it can be much more fun to look for gifts that only you could have found. My own brand of last-minute crisis buying actually encourages me to shop local, but I almost always discover lovely things I would never have found in the major stores. Look for honey made near you – most foodies love specific local honeys – or cute houseware stores with original linens. Of course, not everyone on your list will appreciate Etsy-style crafting, but even if you’re buying Iittala bowls or Prestat chocolate in your local boutique, it’s all helping keep them afloat.
Wow, I’ve survived thinking about holiday gifts in November. I think I need a latte…I’ll write about holiday food books separately, since I love food books and they deserve their own post!