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November is here and with it, the myriad of social engagements and activities. For many of us, it is the busiest time of the year. I’ve noticed that wine/beer seem to be the standard choice as a gift for the host/hostess, in US at least, but I think there are more interesting and useful gifts to bring, that perhaps a whole family can enjoy and that have a longer staying power on a kitchen counter or in a pantry.
You will also notice that these items are:
*useful and practical
*suitable for all family members
*low waste/recyclable/reusable packaging
Of course, the easiest and most thoughtful thing that you can do is to ask the host/hostess beforehand if they need anything specific to accompany the dinner.
If the answer is “no”, here is a list of things you can surprise them with:
1. Salt and pepper
Salt and pepper are such staples in any household that you cannot go wrong in choosing this combo, especially if you go for a higher quality, more nutritious sea salt like Celtic Sea Salt – my personal favorite that I have been using for years! I buy the 5 lbs bag and it lasts me for over a year. This is the exact one I purchase but they have many other options to choose from, including one with a grinder. Check them out here.
I like this particular brand because the salt is unprocessed, unbleached, and harvested in a way that preserves the natural and life sustaining minerals that naturally occur in it. It goes wonderfully in dishes, soups ans stews (the salt needs to cook to break down) and I find that I generally need less of this kind to flavor the foods I make, compared to the processed and bleached table salt that has been stripped off of its natural minerals.
Other options to try are Maldon Sea Salt, with a more delicate and crisp texture but rich in flavor, harvested in England and with a pure white color, or you could choose a “fleur de sel” type of salt (it means “flower of salt” in French) like Le Saunier de Camargue which is a type of salt used solely to flavor the dishes after they have been cooked, also known as “the caviar of salt”. Both of these options can be purchased online at various retailers.
As for pepper, go for whole peppercorns in a wooden grinder. There is nothing like really good pepper freshly grounded on a salad or pasta! it is such a simple and easy thing to do but it elevates the taste of the dish instantly.
Another combination for a gift option is to bring one of the aforementioned salts accompanied by a nice wooden salt cellar like this one.
2. Maple syrup or honey
Raw, organic honey has many wonderful properties and it is my sweetener of choice for coffee or tea. It is rich in antioxidants, helps heal burns and cuts and it is a healthier alternative to sugar. Of course, it needs to be consumed in moderation. But, because it is such a versatile ingredient (can be used in baked goods, to sweeten drinks, or on toast and butter) it is an all around staple to have in the house. And, if properly sealed, it never goes bad.
Organic maple syrup is another great option to give as a gift, especially this time of year since it can be used in so many recipes! there’s something about pumpkins, baked goods and maple syrup that’s intricately linked to “fall time”. I especially like it as a sweetener in home made granola recipes, topped on unsweetened yogurt and of course, on pancakes. This is another staple with a long shelf life that most families need and enjoy all throughout the year.
3. Biodegradable cutlery and plates
I think this is a great gift to give to someone that you know hosts a lot throughout the year and uses mainly disposable cutlery and plates. Since plastic and styrofoam are the most common and affordable options, it is nice to bring them a set that is biodegradable. It elevates the experience of hosting, it will save them time and money since they won’t have to purchase these items themselves AND it is better for our planet.
Nowadays, there are many options on the market! even local supermarkets and local stores carry them and there are many combinations to choose from. The other day whilst I was visiting my local Target I have noticed that their bullseye area, where the items are priced 15$ and under, carries now sets of reusable, stainless steel straws.
You could go for a party pack, a combo of glass or stainless steel straws and some reusable drinking cups or you could add some compostable bags and some reusable produce bags. There are many options to suit many budgets, and many combinations that you can make as well.
4. A set of linen napkins or organic cotton kitchen napkins
As someone that cooks daily and hosts dinner parties as well, I find that you cannot have enough kitchen towels, or dinner napkins for that matter. I have purposefully tried to reduce how much paper I use and keep in my home so swapping kitchen paper towels for cotton cleaning cloths and dinner napkins has been a natural progression. Perhaps you can inspire someone to do the same with your gift.
I have found a variety of linen napkins on etsy. As for the cotton towels, they can be generally and easily found at your local stores. I am always pleasantly surprised by the seasonal kitchen towels that Target carries in their bullseye section. They are 3$/2, they wash well and hold well. I could not find them online but I always see them in the store.
Alternative gift option: choose a rustic Italian bread, or some sourdough bread from your local deli with some European style butter like Kerrygold to accompany the dinner napkins or kitchen towels. Or, you could substitute the towels and napkins for a nice, cotton apron and oven mitts.
5. A basket of seasonal fruits/veggies
None of us are eating enough fruits and veggies so this gift can supplement someone’s pantry supply of fresh produce and be a gentle reminder to do just that: eat more fruits and veggies. Apples, pears, plums, pumpkins, squash, eggplants, grapes, are just some example of the seasonal produce available in the fall time. You can choose any combination and in any variety.
My most favorite way to gift items is in reusable, sustainable packaging. For these specific items, a basket and a kitchen towel will suffice.
I nearly always find baskets of various sizes and in perfect condition at my local thrift shops and I make sure to stock up on them for this precise reason. The seasonal kitchen replaces the plastic covering that I noticed seems to go with basket gifts, but I place mine on the bottom of the basket, making sure that the corners peak out. Simple, effortless and reusable.
Let me know down below some of your favorite things to bring to dinner parties!
Also, stay tuned for next week: my Christmas Gift Guide will be published.
In the meantime, if you want to get ahead of your Christmas shopping, check my last year’s guide here.