The Only Realistic Holiday (Food) Gift Guide You’ll See in 2014

Somewhere between Black Friday and Giving Tuesday (a.k.a. Cyber Monday), anyone with a pulse and a web domain starts curating their online holiday gift guides. Every food blog, every digital retail storefront and even the New York Times exerts every ounce of possible pre-holiday stress into crafting the right juxtaposition of low-brow/high-brow products, lavish gift box subscriptions and cheeky stocking stuffers for everyone on your wish list.

The problem with these gift guides is twofold:

1) You can never afford, and never would want to afford, a $300 coffee table book.

2) The personas that every website structures these guides around are not grounded in reality (or sanity.) Absolutely no one has a “Luxury Savant” or “Lip Balm and Ponytail Gal” in their gifting circle.

Without further adieu, here’s a “Holiday Gift Guide” for the real people in your life who like real food and have real struggles with counter space and oven capacity:

For the grad student:
Cookies. Lots and lots of cookies. They can be basic chocolate chip cookies you baked yourself or a guilt-free package of white-chocolate dipped Oreos or even an “IOU” to buy them Girl Scout cookies online once they’re officially available in January. They’ll need the sugar boost to wake them up from their post-finals slumber and the substance to soak up all of the tears and bourbon.

For the guy who doesn’t really cook:
…But who probably knows his way around a good sandwich. Condiments! Fancy condiments! I’m talking baconnaise, fancy dijon mustard, a thick jar of artisan pickles. While you’re at it, throw in some super chunky peanut butter (because men prefer it to creamy, duh), some salt and pepper kettle chips and a package of those semi-fancy store bought hot dogs.

For the chronic under-seasoner:
A simple, small pepper mill (pre-filled with whole black peppercorns.) A container of fine Morton Sea Salt (none of that bourgeois pink, smoked, Himalayan stuff). A jar each of: adobo powder, Greek seasoning, Italian seasoning. Land O’Lakes butter. Garlic powder. Chili powder. A spice rack, but only if there’s budget leftover. Go DIY crazy if you have the patience.

For the college-nostalgic 25 year-old:
Easy Mac. A gift card to Chili’s. Pound cake. 12 cases of Dr. Pepper. A Costco-sized pack of Wheat-Thins. Salsa. French bread pizza. Spaghetti. A few cartons of fried rice and potstickers. Sliders. Nachos. Ore-Ida crinkle cut frozen French Fries. A carton of milk, chocolate ice cream and creamy peanut butter (for milkshakes.) Gatorade.

For the diet faddist:
Farro. Organic red quinoa. Avocados (to take the place of cream and butter in all of their baked goods.) Butter (for their coffee.) Squash (for spaghetti.) Zucchini (for spaghetti.) 85% cocoa chocolate bars. Chia seeds. Nutritional yeast. Fish oil. Kale. Juice. Cauliflower (for pizza crusts.) Clay (for the tragically misinformed.)

For the girl who needs a bigger kitchen:
A stepladder, to reach the pots and pans sitting eight feet high above her cabinets. Patience, until years from now when she finally has the counter space to warrant her own KitchenAid mixer. Stackable/collapsible tupperware—actually, anything stackable/collapsible. Sympathy, because she feels terrible about having to shove the gin and scotch and bourbon up against the coffeemaker (with the tea egg wedged in the middle) instead of showcased on their own bar cart.

Happy holidays!

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