Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Food Rest Ye Merry, Gentle Friends

It's been several years now since I decided that the majority of the gifts I would give at birthdays and Christmas would be homemade (hand-crafted or cooked). I found it so much more satisfying to be able to personalize gifts for my friends that I tried to encourage a similar gift-giving policy on their parts.

Some friends took to it immediately, happy to put their hands and hearts to work together to create something to share with me. And while I still occasionally get store-bought gifts (some of which are very useful!), by now I've been able to persuade some of those same friends to follow me in giving just food gifts.

Last weekend, My Dear Papa delivered a small plate full of his home-baked sugar cookies and Russian teacakes. I didn't get a photo of them as they didn't last very long (though you can see similar cookies at Janet's site), but it delighted me to no end to get that kind of surprise from my father.

I also received a box from my friend Sojourner. She's usually my source for "local" pecans since there's a pecan farm not far from her in Springfield, Illinois, but this year's crop was destroyed by the late hard frost. Instead, she ordered a big bag of pecans for me from Koinonia Farms -- birthplace of Habitat for Humanity -- in Americus, Georgia. Granted, they're not local for either of us, but I definitely appreciated the connection to a gift she's shared before as well as to an excellent cause.

And this morning, the Archivist strolled into my office with a big bag containing all sorts of edible treats, both local and store-bought. Wrapped in a beautiful striped dish towel (something I always need!) were a jar of her fantastic dilled green beans (and cukes), her delectable cranberry-pistachio biscotti, a small tin of gourmet hot cocoa, a tin of candied ginger bits (since she knows how much I love to bake with ginger), and a sampler of five kinds of shortbread cookies. Since the Archivist asked my opinion on the different shortbread flavors, I'll just say for the record that while it was a very difficult call, I'd call the amaretto version the best, followed by the orange and the lemon (tied), the cinnamon, and the blackberry brandy. (Where does she get these ideas? Wow!)

Dear Reader Tina has promised her annual cookie selection, so I will probably see that sometime next week, and I'll also get my usual collection of homemade buckeyes and caramels from My Fabulous Aunt when she comes to town for Christmas. How sweet it is!

In a world with much too much stuff and even more waste -- where having more is no guarantee of happiness -- I'm so thrilled to share these little gifts with the special people in my life. They're small, inexpensive presents that don't last long, it's true. (That's what I love!) But the joy of sharing our different holiday traditions, favorite recipes, or local food finds means so much more to me.


At 12/21/2007 10:30 AM, Blogger foodperson said...

I think that's wonderful, Jennifer. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't succeed in similar efforts. But let's face it, few Americans need more stuff, but lots of us need a sense of community and affection that handmade gifts, especially food, can provide. Good job.

At 12/21/2007 12:33 PM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Thanks, Janet. There are still some people I haven't be able to convince completely, or some who truly don't feel able to give a homemade gift in return... but I appreciate their consideration in trying to find something simple and useful.

I like how you put it -- "community and affection" -- those are the true gifts right there, embodied by the presents we give. Maybe if we can remember that, it could make our gift-planning and -giving easier. I know I tend to put a lot of time into making gifts (and have for years), but it gives me the chance to be with each individual recipient in spirit.

At 12/22/2007 5:31 PM, Blogger Bri said...

It's so great Jennifer, that you make so many wonderful baked goods for your loved ones. It's so true that the real gifts in life are community and affection. Mostly through financial necessity, my husband and I started making gifts for friends and family and enjoy continuing the tradition. This year everyone is getting meyer lemon curd and chocolate truffles. Yum!

At 12/23/2007 7:37 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

You have some VERY lucky friends and family, Bri! Ooooh, Meyer lemon curd AND chocolate truffles... I'd love to be YOUR friend! :-)

Financial necessity is an excellent motivation for making homemade gifts... and I think that's part of its appeal for recipients, who then realize that we DON'T have to spend a lot of money to give something worthwhile.


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