The Umami Guide to Giving by How Much You Like Someone
There’s someone in your life, they like to cook, you feel like you should buy them a holiday gift, but you don’t know what to get them. Here at Umami, we think it’s pretty simple, there’s only one question that matters, “how much do you like them?” Once you’re able to answer that question, take a look at our handy guide, pick out your gift, and move on to something more important, like dropping hints about what they should be buying you.
It was just one night, sort of…
We all have those people in our lives, you tell yourself it was just one of those nights, even though that was weeks ago and now you’re stuck planning your escape route before you open your eyes. “Breakfast, ahh I’m sorry my Ficus needs watering.”
In these situations, it’s the feelings of regret for enjoying your bad decisions along with a little guilt that makes you feel like you should buy them a present. The important thing is to make sure the gift doesn’t send the wrong message, that’s what your 2 AM texts are for.
What you need is a gift that says “Here is a gift, don’t get too excited, I’m not that horrible of a person and unless you’re an idiot this doesn’t mean I want to meet your parents.” This can be a tough gift, if you don’t put enough thought into it, you’re sleeping alone, too much and you’re setting yourself up for some grade A stalking.
We’re recommending hot pads. The nice thing about hot pads is you can buy them anywhere, they have the word hot in their name, and you can buy them in red, which seems both Christmassy and romantic at the same time. We like the Super Flex Silicone Oven Mitts, they’re red, not very expensive, and they’re available – sound familiar
It’s a weekend thing
This is going somewhere; you actually like this person. There are dates that start one night and end with leisurely brunches the next day. This stage of a relationship is all about pacing. You don’t want to be the person moving too fast and jumping way ahead of things, you also don’t want to be moving so slow that the whole thing falls apart.
Gifts here have real meaning, mostly because neither of you are actually talking to each other about what’s going on. This means you need to find a thoughtful gift that says, “See I’ve been paying attention and I do know something about you.” This is also a good time to buy gifts that imply spending more time together.
Our recommendations here are all about the exotic and interesting, which is what you still are at this point. We think one of the best early relationship gifts is a Bodum French Press, it evokes Paris cafes and spending mornings together reading the paper. It’s also our favorite way to make great coffee, which is a plus.
Our second choice is a Tagine. It’s a bit of a throw down gift with the price, but what’s more exotic than Moroccan cooking that’s completely designed to share. If you go this route we recommend picking up a book like Tagines and Couscous, so the two of you have some recipes to try, instead of having you both stand around talking about how pretty it is.
I’m not ready for anything serious, but I just might be ready for cast iron
This relationship is moving along, there’s starting to be joint purchases, things are being left in drawers, a shelf in the bathroom has been cleaned out and refilled with strange things you never, ever, wanted to see.
This is the time to buy a gift that says, “I’m in this, but let’s not go crazy and run off to Vegas.” Nothing says forever without making a real commitment like cast iron. It’s iron, it’s from the earth, it’s made in giant forges of fire, its rock steady. It also has the advantage of being fantastic cookware, completely underused in modern kitchens, and relatively inexpensive.
There are tons of choices here, for us it’s simple if you’re a cheapskate go with Heuck’s three-piece set if you’re feeling extravagant go with Lodge’s five-piece set.
This person rocks your world. Stupid songs on the radio remind you of them, you are willing to go to ridiculous lengths to demonstrate the depths of your love. Hopefully you’re with someone who feels the same way; otherwise, you’re about to be able to wax philosophically about the difference between shame and regret.
Assuming you don’t have the money to give them a Lexus December to Remember, you want to give them something really over the top. This is where you break out the new grills, the fancy knives, the weekend getaways. These gifts are about fire and passion, they’re all about bringing the heat, they’re about being better than any gift an ex has ever given them.
So go for it, don’t worry about giving something that makes sense or is going to be used all the time, this is a statement of your love. This is when you give something like the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator. It’s not something you’re going to use every day, but it’s something fun to experiment with in the kitchen and Sous Vide is all about getting everything just right in a long, hot bath that lasts all day.
If you want to go all out book a long weekend in wine country, beautiful vineyards, great food, California countryside, sounds like the perfect place for a long weekend. There might even be a few places we have our eyes that we’d really like to stay at, hint, hint.
We’re together, it’s probably going to stay that way, I should get you something
So this is who you ended up with and that’s ok. At some point, you hope they were an Oh Yeah!!! and not a One Night, sort of person who never left. This is the place you pull out the functional gifts, they should have some meaning, be useful, and nice enough that nobody’s feelings get hurt. This is where you buy the nice Kitchen Aid mixer for the person who likes to bake or the expensive set of copper pots for the person who likes to cook.
What you don’t do and it’s easy to move into the next category if you do this, is buy something that is purely functional; we’re talking dishwasher and fridges here. It doesn’t matter how much you need one or how much you both talked about it being this year’s Christmas present. There isn’t anyone on earth who thinks a new dishwasher with a nice rinse cycle is a romantic Christmas gift. So don’t do it and don’t be the idiot who buys something for yourself and gives it to your partner.
This is the gift you do because this is where you are at in life and as the Talking Heads said so beautifully…
And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right?…Am I wrong?
And you may say to yourself
My God!…What have I done?!
You’re Dead to Me
You know you’re in a relationship like this when you look over at someone and realize you’ve stopped asking yourself how you ended up here. It doesn’t matter, its just indifference now and nothing says I could care less about you than a toaster. Here, have some crispy bread in the morning.
There’s a reason why banks used to give them away, they’re functional, they’re ubiquitous, they’re indifferent. Giving someone a toaster is the same thing as saying you are no different to me than anyone else on the planet.
So you’re looking across the kitchen table and you’re thinking, thanks Umami, this solves one of the many problems in my life, but what toaster should I buy. The beauty of the toaster as a gift is if there’s a part of you that still cares a small bit, or maybe there’s a deep seeded emotional wound you want to salt, or you don’t want to be too obvious about your indifference there are enough toasters out there that you can layer your indifference with small amounts of meaning.
For complete indifference we recommend the Procter two slice toaster, it’s so basic that Wonder Bread gets offended when you use it. If you’re still pissed because you wanted kids and your partner didn’t, we recommend a toaster oven with a bun in the oven, it’s petty and kind of cruel, but at this point inflicting pain is about all you have in common, so you might as well be good at it.
Did you get into this for the money, is that all there is left, if that’s the case we recommend buying the Bugati “Volo” toaster, it’s $400 of toasting machinery that says I’m going to spend it all and there’s nothing you can do about it.
We sincerely hope as you’re reading this that you’re not looking across the kitchen table thinking I would share this with you, but then we would have to have an uncomfortable conversation about what category we fit into. Don’t do it, relationships aren’t supposed to be talked about, it takes all the mystery out everything. Just buy a gift and hope you get something from the Oh Yeah! category.
Mark is Umami's publisher