Kitchen Intuition: Gift ideas

Authored By aliceodea

It’s hard to believe it’s already December, and the pressure is coming to bear on holiday shopping procrastinators. Since I’m definitely a member of that club, I sat down this week and did some research (while listening to the wonderful sound of rain-finally-outside my window) and came up with some suggestions for gifts that relate to food and wellness.

My two highest priorities when shopping for gifts are to try to keep it local and to get something that will disappear-that is, to give experiences and consumables so as to not weigh someone down with things they have to move, maintain and store. This is especially important over the holidays (as opposed to discrete occasions like birthdays), when there tends to be an overwhelming amount of stuff. That’s when I put extra effort into coming up with presents like tickets to a concert, a membership in an organization, a certificate for a class or a nice bottle of wine.

The most obvious qualifying gift idea is to quite literally give someone fresh food from a local source. There are a lot of possibilities for doing this in Chattanooga, with quite a range of prices. You can give a weekly CSA subscription that could last for weeks or months or a single week’s bounty from a local farm. If you know a farmer, ask what options they have available. To find a farmer, search Grow Chattanooga‘s CSA directory or visit a local farmers market and speak directly to any of the vendors there. The farm where I get my food (Tant Hill Farm) still has single and full shares available for the winter. Other possibilities are to contact a market’s director to see if they offer gift cards (I checked this week and the Main Street Farmers Market has gift certificates available that are good at any booth in the market, and you can get them in any amount).

If a farm share isn’t your recipient’s thing, perhaps a gift certificate to a local farm-to-table restaurant would do the trick. The dining scene in Chattanooga has been growing quickly in recent years, so there are plenty of options that range from takeout pizza to fine dining. Or give a gift in the name of the recipient that supports the local food community, like a membership to Crabtree Farms or a donation to The Land Trust for Tennessee. If you know someone who would rather grow food, get them into the Master Gardener Training Course offered through the Master Gardeners of Hamilton County, or gift them a hoe and point them toward the nearest community garden.

If you’re shopping for someone who might like a farm share, but maybe wouldn’t know what to do with it, there are some great opportunities for cooking classes in Chattanooga. Besides Brunch Class that I wrote about last week (which, to clarify, is not offered through Chattanooga State Community College and can be held anywhere; contact Blackwell Smith to arrange a gift), there are a number of opportunities in the area. The Sweet and Savory Classroom offers gift certificates and has classes for adults and children. Dish T’ Pass offers classes and summer cooking camps. And the Creative Discovery Museum offers kitchen lessons on Saturdays, plus other special events (like the current gingerbread workshops).

Finally, another great way to improve cooking skills is simply by hanging out in the kitchen more, and a beautiful cookbook can offer a person plenty of inspiration to spend extra time there. This is the season when everyone issues their lists of the best books of the year. If you find something exciting there for your friend or loved one, you can get your order filled downtown at Star Line Books (if they don’t already carry it).

If I missed something you think should belong on this list, please help others out by leaving a comment with your idea. And whether you’re celebrating St. Nicholas Day, Festivus, Christmas, Bodhi Day, St. Lucia Day, Las Posadas, Hanukkah, St. Stephen’s Day, Yule, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, Saturnalia or Dongzhì, remember to always give the gift of kindness. Happy holidays!

Alice O’Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn’t really learn to cook until midlife. When she’s not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not or its employees.