Tis the season ... to celebrate, give thanks, trim trees, light candles, and for many of us to buy a few gifts. Are you shopping for someone who loves to cook? It's hard to sort through all the options If you don't know your way around the kitchen. Part of picking a good gift is making sure you don't give a mathom - which was Tolkien's word for under-used and not-quite-appreciated items that are likely to be re-gifted.
Last week I offered suggestions about what to buy the kitchen obsessed. This week I'd like to tell you what not to buy.
What follows is my current list of ten things not to get for someone who loves to cook:
10. Do not buy a large inexpensive set of something.
A big set of bad knives simply gives the user all sorts of ways to slice badly. A set of cheap Teflon pans will be a set of scratched semi-stick pans in six months. Don't buy anything you see on TV if the deep voice urges you to "buy now and get two for the same low price."
9. Do not buy a cookbook with a non-food theme.
I have a Friends Cookbook that I've never even leafed through. So we're clear, it's not a book of Quaker recipes. It's based on the old TV series. If your friend is a serious cook don't get her a gag gift cookbook.
8. Don't give something made of plastic.
There are probably a lot of exceptions, but cooking is natural and organic. There are issues about whether some plastics leach into our food. Glass, ceramics, and stainless steel don't react with food, and they're green. If you take care of them they last forever. Plastic is the wrong kind of forever. Note: silicone is not plastic, and there are a lot of great silicone utensils and they're reasonably priced.
7. Don't give a holiday-themed cooking gift.
By definition it won't be used until next year, and only if the recipient remembers he still has it. Such gifts are strong candidates for next year's office gift exchange.
6. Don't give highly decorated potholders.
A person trying to take a turkey out of the oven doesn't need to contend with all sorts of animal appendages hanging off an oven mitt. And, such dangling modifiers are destined to become encrusted with food, and then bacteria.
5. Don't give a vacuum sealer unless it's for someone who's been wishing for one.
If you really want to give the gift of food storage get some containers that are oven and microwave-proof and stackable as well.
4. Don't buy a George Forman or similar grill.
Such devices are great - but they're great for people who don't really cook. People who enjoy cooking are happy to make a grilled cheese sandwich in a skillet. But a waffle iron might be a good gift for the cook who loves everything about Sunday mornings.
3. Don't get a slow cooker for a cook.
A Crock Pot is what you get for a harried working parent trying to cook for a family. People use Crock Pots to keep their time in the kitchen to a minimum. A good gift for the cook offers him or her a way to spend more time in the kitchen.
2. Don't buy a spice rack full of little canisters or jars.
They're nice, but they're for people who love to organize, not cooks. I don't know any good cooks who can fit all their spices into one of those little racks.
1. Don't buy an appliance that makes something you love and want made for you.
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In this case, buying me a waffle iron so I can make you waffles isn't really a gift for me - it's for you.
Andy Broder is the chef/owner of AndyFood, A Culinary Studio.