Our Un-Gift Guide is a little late this year, but that's okay, because it's all about not being stressed about buying presents for the holidays. It's not about consuming, spending gobs of money you don't have, or about giving and receiving appliances you'll rarely use, or little plastic gadgets that will clutter up your drawers. We polled our writers for their favorite un-gifts, and they had a wide array of responses, from homemade food gifts (love it) to ways to volunteer together to the only wine opener you should ever have.
We begin with Chris, our NYC co-editor. Justice & Peace: The best way I know how to bring about justice and peace is to act locally. While the nation's global concerns and political problems feel frustratingly beyond my reach, I'm confident that I can change things in the New York City neighborhoods where I live, eat, shop and go to church. Every Sunday evening, about 60 gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth, ages 16-20, gather in dining room at my church, St. Luke in the Fields. These kids, ostracized by their families and peers, gather on Christopher Street. St. Luke's invites them in for a nutritious meal and art and dance classes. Due to cuts in grant funding, this program maybe be cut in half for 2007. To make sure this program continues to serve this ignored population, I'm committing money and time cooking in the kitchen to the GLBT Youth Outreach Workshop at St. Luke's. Comfort & Joy: This holiday season has buried me under a pile of catalogs for cooks, including so many "gift ideas" and so-called "must haves." I'm angry to see cooking turned into an excuse for the elite to collect expensive toys, rather than a nourishing part of every day life. We need to keep things in perspective and remember that we don't need fancy platters from Provence or $150 nickel-plated wine openers to create a good meal at home. I'm afraid that in our race to accessorize with the best and newest gadgets, we're losing some of the joy of cooking. This season, I want to give my friends cooking confidence and some comfort standing at their stoves. I'm giving a beginner cook Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food ($23.10). I'm especially happy to give Bittman's book becasue it begins with a suggestion that we "cook for a while with minimal equipment." No caviar or chocolate fountains here, thank goodness. For some friends who already know their way around the kitchen, I'm going to give the new edition of Irma Rombauer's classic Joy of Cooking (only $18 for 1,152 pages of kitchen wisdom.) I received my copy of this edition a few weeks ago for my birthday and it has already become a trusted resource. Joy of Cooking reminds us that the kitchen is a "place of enjoyment, not just one of backbreaking labor," as Christopher Kimball from Cook's Illustrated said.