With the holidays coming up, a lot of people find themselves in a pickle. Not a cute pickle ornament on the tree that means a dinky prize if you find it first, but a real honest to goodness problem. If you’re visiting someone, whether friend, family, frenemy, or foe, what do you bring as a gift?
I like to default to wine or booze, but some people don’t drink. And not everyone gets excited about homemade peanut brittle or that chocolate bark crap with the crushed peppermints on top. Googling “homemade gift ideas” brings up a lot of the same-old, same-old, and if you’re like me, you’ve already tapped too far into the most obvious resources. If you haven’t, though, here are things I’ve done that I can’t redo, just to prove I’ve put too much thought into the topic already:
- Painted reusable canvas grocery totes
- Homemade bath salts
- Gift boxes of various teas
- Homemade vanilla extract
- Beer bread mix—just add beer!
- 1950’s style cheese cookies
- So on, so forth
So if you need to bring something to someone as a show of gratitude for hosting your ass this holiday season and you’ve hit bottom on googling “creative homemade gifts,” where do you turn? Right here, darling—I’ve got you covered.
This gift applies mostly if the host you’re visiting is cooking some form of main course, such as a Thanksgiving turkey or a holiday ham. However, the concept could work for just about whatever main dish hits their dining table. This gift is all about the aftermath, taking something off the host’s plate while adding something special of your own. And the gift is… thrummm…
A gourmet leftovers kit. Ta-da!
The idea here is that you’re helping out with a meal, whether you’re there to help cook (and eat) it or not, and showing appreciation for the host’s hard holiday work by giving them the next day off. Everyone loves diving into day-after leftovers, and this nifty gift idea guarantees that the second-day sandwich will be as glorious as the candlelit grandeur of the night before.
- A decent container, whatever it is: Nice grocery tote, a basket with a ribbon, whatever. Cheap is good, and ribbon, a little paint, or just a nice gift tag can fix lots of flaws. You just want something to make it clear that this is a present.
- Bread. If you’re short of time or don’t cook, go gourmet and buy a beautiful, fresh loaf or two of something fluffy from your local bakery or market. They’ll even pre-slice for you if you tell them it’s for sandwiches. Pick something big and pretty, or bake up something if you have a bread maker or just loving getting your elbows in dough (I do).
- Some sandwich-style veg: Onion, tomatoes, lettuce, etc. I don’t eat veggies on sandwiches, so I always just ask the produce guy what he eats and he guides me through.
- Homemade mayo. Okay, if you’ve never made mayo, don’t freak: It’s easy. Julia Child says so, and so do I. For honor’s sake, I can’t post Julia’s recipe here, but if you google then the recipe is sure to come up easy. Homemade mayo is simple to do and will be impressive to show up with. It’s also delish. If you are still wigged about cooking (whipping) food, just buy some fancy mayo at the store that your host wouldn’t normally splurge on.
- Cranberry sauce. Recipes for this are also easy to google, and making knockout c-sauce is shockingly easy. Mostly, you just boil things and keep stirring, and it takes less than 20 minutes. Showing up with a glistening jar of goodness that even a sandwich-loving hobbit would appreciate is guaranteed to score you points. But again, if you’re squeamish, you can spring for a decent jar of cranberry jam at the store.
- Cheese. Go gourmet on this one by hitting up your deli counter for the best of the best. As for me, I’m a whore for the Boar—Boar’s Head, that is. Classics for turkey pairings are cheddar, swiss, or good ‘ole American. You could also be Fancy Nancy and swing towards brie or pimento or something else ritzy.
- Some kind of side, like chips or crunchy veggies with dipping sauce. Since your host has earned it, bag them a crinkly container of their favorite splurge snack (Cheetos, anyone?). Or you could be ritzy again and get them some kind of crazy schmancy veggie chip. My favorite newfound addictions are called Humbles by Good Health, although they’re hard to find.
The cool thing about this gift idea is that the cost and time involved are all up to you. It’s easy to knock out the whole thing in one swooping trip to the market and not think of it again until you’re packing. You could even put it together as you pull into the last grocery store before you hit their house.
Or, if you have the time and the talent, you can make most things on the list and have it be extra special.
One note: Don’t let this gift be a surprise. Since your host is probably planning all the food, ask if this would be something they want. Let them know you appreciate them, want to contribute, and take something off their plate while simultaneously adding to the next day’s table.
If this gift isn’t up their alley, be clear: They’re getting a bottle of booze, and if they don’t drink it, you’ll be forced to. Happy holidays!