Gift Ideas: Straight To The Kitchen

Every year around this time I get the same call from each member of my family. It goes something like this:

ME: Hey Mother/Father/Sister/Brother! What's shakin'?

THEM: What do you want for Hanukkah?

ME: I'm pretty good, thanks for asking.

THEM: What do you want for Hanukkah?

ME: How 'bout those Bears?

THEM: What do you want for Hanukkah?


This is all to say that gift giving is hard. It's almost impossible to know what to get for someone close to you and, unless they're 8 and give you an extensive crayon-scrawled list, people are by and large reluctant to tell you exactly what they want. It's even harder when it's for the person who sleeps on the other side of your bed (and occasionally steals the blanket). While some people swear by safe gifts like jewelry or vacations, I think the best presents are the ones that are completely inappropriate most other days of the year: outlandish food contraptions.

What qualifies as an outlandish food contraption? Anything that could be sold in an infomercial. Extravagant smoothie blenders, counter-top pizza ovens, the ubiquitous chocolate fountain: these crazy things would be completely out of place for a birthday present. The holidays, however, are another story. The winter holiday gift-giving season is pretty extraneous to begin with, so I think it only makes sense to make the gifts extraneous, too.

There's a specific industry that focuses on this type of cooking equipment and they seem to be in cahoots with Bed Bath & Beyond. This industry produces items that all fall under the "Beyond" category. That is to say "beyond the boundaries of good taste," "beyond using it once, it'll sit dormant in the back of your cabinets," and "this will hopefully have a life beyond the thrift store you inevitably donate it to." It doesn't matter how useless the gift may seem (or end up being) – there's great fun in giving (and getting) a vintage popcorn cart.

Let's look at this in practical terms. How many times are you going to make an enormous cupcake? Probably not too often. That's the beauty of these gifts. They don't have to be useful or even practical. They just have to bear the promise of greater things to come. Giant cupcake pan? Who wouldn't get excited for a way to easily make cupcakes of monstrous proportions? When you give a gift like a giant cupcake pan, you're giving more than the pan: you're also giving a dream.

Now I'm not saying you should just go out and buy crap for your loving ones. If you're interested in crap, go shopping at The Dollar Store. What I'm suggesting is that the holidays are a time for giving and you should seriously consider giving an oddball food gift because that chocolate fountain's going to be way more fun than a sweater and you'll always remember the time your chocolate fountain spilled over onto your carpet.

Read the previous installment of Heart Attack on Food Republic.