Food as Gift Enough

Christmas Cookies picture by Brian DeweyHere come the winter holidays! And with this line-up of festivals come many reasons and opportunities to celebrate with family and friends. Lately I have been thinking about the idea of food as gift enough, the notion that it is plenty meaningful to spend time with loved ones over a thoughtfully prepared meal or by offering an edible gift from the kitchen. Sharing food is one of the most ancient and basic ways to celebrate special occasions, and this is true in all countries and across all cultures. I don’t know about you, but the thought of joining the throngs shopping at the mall does not light my fire; in fact, it almost makes me break out in hives. I know that I’m not going to get away with giving only food gifts to my teen children. (They’ll need socks and underwear, after all!)  But for many of us on limited budgets and for those concerned about our culture of over-consumption, it keeps making sense to streamline and celebrate holidays simply. Why not give nourishing, tasty gifts from the kitchen in the form of a meal, a party or a prepared treat?

In the spirit of this idea, here is a list of books on easy and inexpensive holiday cooking and entertaining. At Home on the Range is a cookbook in prose by Margaret Yardley Potter, originally published in 1947. In the chapter, “Painless Party Giving and Effortless Entertaining,” she declares that the best party foods to offer are favored family dishes that have been doubled or tripled in quantity and that it is better to offer simple, well-prepared fare than to be skimpy with dishes that require expensive ingredients. That sounds like good party food-making advice to me.

Another fun way to share holiday treats and favored family recipes is to host or attend a cookie exchange. By dividing the load of baking and then swapping the finished goodies, you can enjoy an assortment of holiday treats without breaking the bank or your back. Broadening the idea of a cookie exchange, you might consider having a cupcake exchange.  The idea to put a spin on the traditional cookie swap presented itself because there are so darn many cupcake cookbooks in the library’s collection. Taking “specialization” to an interesting edge is the “The Butch Bakery Cookbook,” by David Arrick, which caters cupcakes to men’s palates, believe it or not (e.g., The Driller: a maple cupcake frosted with milk chocolate ganache and bacon bits)!  Folks that have a gluten intolerance don’t have to be excluded from these exchanges either because there are good cookbooks with recipes to satisfy this dietary restriction.

Wishing you a peaceful and happy and healthy holiday season!  In parting I leave you with this meal time blessing:

For what we are about to receive
let us be truly thankful
…to those who planted the crops
…to those who cultivated the fields
…to those who gathered the harvest.

For what we are about to receive
let us be truly thankful
to those who prepared it and those who served it.

In this festivity let us remember too
those who have no festivity
those who cannot share this plenty
those whose lives are more affected than our own
by war, oppression and exploitation
those who are hungry, sick and cold

In sharing in this meal
let us be truly thankful
for the good things we have
for the warm hospitality
and for this good company.

By Bill Logan, 2001

About Larkspur

Larkspur prefers biking to work, even in the rain and snow, having 2-3 car-free days per week. She raises children, frequents the Farmers’ Market, dances and earnestly wedges in time to draw, print-make and paint, and sometimes knits, and sometimes writes poetry.
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