A Truly Useful Gift: 6 Ways to Give Delicious Foodstuffs

I love giving and receiving gifts that are useful instead of things that are nice, but perhaps a bit superfluous and sparkly. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the superfluous and sparkly, too, but lately I'd much rather receive a box of kohlrabi and a side of bacon than a gold-plated drinking straw! These are the kind of gifts that keep on giving, long after the wrapping paper has been recycled and the twinkly lights taken down.

As a cook, my gift of choice to give and receive is food. (And we're not talking fruit baskets!) Read on for a few suggestions on how you can provide a cook with her most favorite raw material!

While a box full of gorgeous pears wrapped in special paper is a nice thing to receive, it is a little impractical. For a the price of nine fancy pears delivered to her door (about $40) you could provide a cook with a whole meal's worth of ingredients from her local farmers' market or specialty grocery store. Or how about:

A share in your local CSA. And it's not just vegetables these days (although vegetables are really nice.) In many areas you can choose from meat, dairy, chicken and egg, preserves, and even pie CSA's. Depending on your budget, a gift could be could be anywhere from a few weeks to a whole summer's worth of bounty.

• Gift certificate to a nicer grocery store. I love getting gift certificates to stores that I can't afford to regularly shop at like Whole Foods or San Francisco's Bi-Rite. Once in a while it's fun to splurge on an expensive ingredient or pricey cut of meat.

• Gift certificate to a farmers' market or even a specific farm stall. Many farmers' markets offer gift certificates to the market and some farms even offer certificates to their individual stalls. Check out their website or visit the information booth if the market is still in operation. Fun idea: Purchase a non-perishable item like a garlic braid and attach the certificate to it for an extra-wonderful gift.

• Are you a backyard food producer? Then give shares in your future production. Examples are certificates for a once a month/week basket from your garden's summer bounty or several jars of honey from your beehive harvest.

• If your cook is also a gardener, then seeds, either in the form of a gift certificate to a favorite seed catalog or collected from your own garden, are always appreciated. And maybe they will reciprocate with a few bunches of carrots and a foot-long zucchini come summer!

• Similar to a CSA, a share in a whole animal is a wonderful gift for the omnivore in your life. Go online to see if there are any already happening in your area or, alternatively, organize one for yourself by gathering enough people to split a whole pig or cow. Just be sure the gift recipient has enough freezer space to stock up on several pounds of meat.

What food-giving ideas have you appreciated giving and receiving?

Related: Holiday Gift Alternative: Give an Experience!

(Image: Bronx CSA)