The Umami Guide to Giving by How Well Someone Cooks
You want to get the cook in your life a present for the holidays, but you’re not sure what to get them. It’s a quandary, do you get the super expensive chef knife for someone who thinks sliced bread is haute cuisine, probably not. Do you get something that has “As seen on TV” on the box for someone who plans their vacations a year in advance to eat at the French Laundry, probably not.
Here at Umami, we like to solve these important problems for you; it’s kind of our thing. The challenge here isn’t about how much to spend; fancy, shiny things that cost a lot of money and sit on shelves collecting dust aren’t very good gifts. For cooks who have drawers full of useless gadgets the gift that gets used is the gift that matters.
So when you’re buying a gift for your favorite cook, all you need to do is think about them in the kitchen, add clothes, and then check our handy guide.
Boiling Water is an Insurmountable Challenge
As soon as they ask you over dinner, you start practicing your best “that was interesting” and “I’ve never had it served that way.” They love to cook, but it’s just not their thing. This can be a difficult person to shop for, you want to get them something nice, but it needs to be easy to use, and let’s be honest it’s not worth spending a lot of money on them.
This is a great person to buy nonstick pans for, they’re a lot harder to burn food in than traditional pans and buying someone who overcooks everything a fire extinguisher is just down right mean. Another great gift for this set is a crock pot; few things make cooking easier than a good slow cooker.
They Know Every Word to The Last Barman Poet
Cocktails are their thing, they watch Cocktail religiously and know every word to “The Last Barman Poet,” they like to debate shaken vs. stirred for hours on end and have really big ice balls. There are all sorts of great options for this group.
If they’re into the craftsmanship that goes into mixing great cocktails pick them up a make your own bitters kit, so they can learn how to make their own flavors. If they’re interested in learning how to make classic cocktails and where cocktail culture comes from picking them up a copy of Imbibe or Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails.
If they just recently discovered that mixing good liquor with other things makes them happy get them a nice set of bar tools.
For Those Who Will Eat Well During the Zombie Apocalypse
When the zombies come, and according to TV it looks like it will be pretty soon, some people are going to be more prepared than others. This is the time when all those hoarders and people whose basements are filled with years of canned goods get to tell the rest of us “I told you so,” which is ok as long as they let us inside and keep us safe.
The reason you get these folks presents is so when the zombie horde is hot on your heals you can remind them that the reason they started canning was because you bought them that starter kit from Granite Ware and the reason their food lasts so long is because they use the FoodSaver Vacuum Sealer you got them last Christmas. Gifts for survivalists are a great way to differentiate yourself from all the neighbors who just gave them a box of chocolates as they whispered to their kids to stay away from that house.
Cookbooks are Their Bible
Their shelves are filled with cookbooks that are lovingly cared for with splatters and stains that make it easy for anyone to find their favorite recipes. A great cookbook does more than tell you how to make a dish; a great cookbook is a concept album that takes you on a journey.
A few of our all-time favorites are The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynne Rosetta Kasper, we’ve learned almost as much about how to cook great Italian food from this cookbook as from our time in Italy. Every time we crack open The New Spanish Table the bank account gets checked to see if there’s enough money to buy a ticket to Spain. New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is so easy to use it can literally change your life from someone who never bakes bread to someone who always bakes bread.
Spends More Time Talking About Their Grillfriend than Their Girlfriend
For some of us there’s nothing more personal than our grills, they’re where we commune with fire, and one the last places where men can still be men. And no we don’t care that you don’t understand and think it’s stupid that every time we have people over, there are four of us standing around the grill in the middle of winter admiring a big hunk of whatever’s on the fire.
What we want is more stuff for the grill, because Grill + Gadgets = Happiness. What we want is a fancy counter weighted rotisserie, and gloves that let us stick our hands in burning lava, and little metal stands that tell us to put things up chicken buts. We also want someone to invent a giant grill that comes with a built in big screen TV and Lazy Boy recliner, but we’re not going to get that, so buy us a Smoke Vault instead.
The Number of Gadgets Used is More Important Than How Things Taste
There are a lot of options for the technophile who needs their phone to cook dinner every night. Over the past few years, the internet of things has invaded the kitchen in the same way digital clock makers invaded our homes in the 1980s.
Does all the technology help you make tastier food, it depends on how you use it and whether you can cook without it. There are some gadgets like immersion circulators that open up whole new cuisines that are worth the money. There’s also something handy about being able to check the temperature of a roast from the couch using a remote controlled thermometer. What makes less sense is spending almost six grand on an espresso maker that doesn’t come with its own barista.
Whoever the cook in your life is there’s a great gift for them in our Market. For someone who loves to cook, you can never go wrong with a good knife, a sound cutting board, or a shiny copper pot. And if you’re still not sure what to get someone, but have an inkling of how you feel about them use The Umami Guide to Giving by How Much You Like Someone.
Mark is Umami's publisher