Gifts and Stocking Stuffers for the Practical Foodie

I had to throw in that bit about practical foodies because I consider myself one. Which means I've stopped buying weird, esoteric, one-recipe ingredients, and I don't want any single-purpose kitchenware that takes up space, much as I have occasionally yearned for a tortilla press. I've tossed cookbooks from which I only liked a couple recipes. I feel guilt if I take home restaurant leftovers in a Styrofoam container that I know can't be recycled. You get the idea.

So without further ado, here are some gift ideas for practical foodies in your life:

1. Yogurt starter. All those probiotics do wonders for the gut and general health and weight, but who needs the added sugars and all those plastic containers?

New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. pic!

I've successfully made very tasty homemade yogurt with these starter packets, Organic Valley whole milk, some powdered dry milk, and a quart thermos. See this post for details. It wasn't too difficult and, apart from a candy thermometer, required no fancy appliance or special equipment. When the yogurt is done, you spoon some out, swirl in fresh fruit or good jam, and you're off to the races!

2. Produce bags. I've bought the mesh, reusable kind at Whole Foods and Fred Meyer and much prefer the brand carried at Fred Meyer. Who needs more plastic bags at home, even if they can be rinsed, gathered with other plastic bags, and recycled? Much easier just to use your own. They're washable, too, if you're a germaphobe.

3. Homemade healthy food. Because we all get enough cookies and sweet quick breads at Christmas. So how about granola or a homemade soup or chili kit? How about homemade salsa or a loaf of sliced and freezer-ready artisan bread?

This one isn't sliced, but you get the idea

4. A foodie book. My favorite food-related book of the year for 2015 was Mark Schatzker's The Dorito Effect, which I wrote about here. Even our livestock eat processed, synthetically-flavored food now! See if reading this book won't turn you into a label-reader...

5. Genuine flavoring. Beware--once you smell and taste Penzey's Almond Extract, you can never go back. Just water, alcohol, and almond oil. This is the secret ingredient to our sugar cookie icing and our spritz cookies. It's also good for just taking deep, deep whiffs of, to send yourself into a swoon worthy of the Victorian era.

6. The present of your presence. Most recently I read a memoir called Black Man in a White Coat, about a black doctor and his experiences with colleagues, patients, race and class prejudice (including his own biases!), and his meditations on whether medicine can really help those who don't want to do what it takes to get well. This got me to thinking about exercise, which is about as close as I usually get to actually exercising because--well, yuck. But I'd also read and enjoyed this book about the lifelong benefits of human connection and community:

so I had the brilliant idea of combining the two. Exercise AND face-to-face contact. How about scheduling some one-on-one walks with that friend or family member you're always trying to connect with? Or give a gift certificate to a dance class you can take together, just for laughs. A friend offers these classes, and I'm thinking this would be so fun to do as couples or with a bunch of girlfriends.

Happy run-up-to-the-holidays to all!