Since the pandemic started, many food enthusiasts’ collective love for all things cooking, baking, pickling, sprouting, and fermenting has been reignited. We’ve dabbled in sourdough breadmaking. We’ve fermented our own yogurt. And we even tried “The Stew” from that racist white lady (which, honestly, could have used more spices!) If you have a loved one that is constantly planning complicated meals, watching recipe videos on YouTube, and painstakingly crafting works of food art, then consider this gift guide an essential resource.
If the person you’re shopping for has the time, energy, and willpower, America’s Test Kitchen offers a robust virtual cooking school for home cooks. With more than 230 courses, ranging from knife skills and plant-based meals to an entire class dedicated to cooking every type of egg, this online cooking school is helpful for cooking enthusiasts of all skill levels. A gift membership gives your loved one unlimited access to every course for a full year and lets them choose to work with an instructor or on their own time at their own pace.
Food prep almost always involves an element of food waste. Thankfully, things like vegetable scraps, fruit peels, and even coffee grounds can be composted. Consider gifting your loved ones a small kitchen compost bin to reduce food waste and create healthy soil (which is, incidentally, perfect for using in an herb garden.) They can also use this helpful website to find their nearest compost dropoff location.
Since I own a cat that eats every single plant I bring inside the house and I don’t have a backyard, unfortunately, this is not an option for me. But if the person you’re buying for has a place for a small outdoor garden or a cat who’s significantly better behaved than mine, you can consider gifting them an herb garden. If they’re looking for a gardening project, you could give them seeds and the necessary supplies to start their herbs from scratch, or if you want something less intensive, you could get them a single pre-planted pot of their favorite herb to keep on their kitchen windowsill. If you want to further minimize the margin of error, AeroGarden makes a countertop garden kit that fully automates the entire process.
Listen, I’ve shit-talked the New York Times a lot in the past, and I’m sure I’ll do it again in the future. Despite my love/hate relationship with the Times, I have found some of my favorite recipes of all time through NYT Cooking—like these soy-ginger meatballs I’ve made at least 20 times in the last year. While many smaller publications struggle to stay afloat, the New York Times absolutely doesn’t need your financial support. But if you’ve already supported your favorite independent publications—like Bitch Media for example—by donating, purchasing subscriptions, and joining our monthly membership program, then give your loved ones the gift of the best meatballs I’ve ever had.
Like Food Network’s Alton Brown—who we unfortunately no longer stan—I love a multitasker. I’m obsessed with my airfryer and its various functions (it can airfry, bake, broil, toast bread and bagels, and more!) I am strongly considering investing in an Instant Pot for all my pressure cooker, slow cooker, and soup-related needs. And because I’m Asian, I’ve always owned a rice cooker. I eat rice with almost every meal, so I value the ability to make the perfect pot of unsupervised rice whenever I want (which then lets me focus my energy on the main course.) Plus, basic rice cookers are really affordable. You can get them for as little as $15 and in a variety of sizes. I’ve been using this eight-cup model from Aroma for nearly four years (and my family has had cheap rice cookers that have lasted decades.)
People of color have been calling out the whiteness of the food industry for years, but with the fall of Bon Appétit and the controversy surrounding Alison Roman, 2020 really feels like a year of reckoning. If your intended giftee cares about racial justice (or if you do), might I suggest a cookbook by someone who isn’t white? Former Bon Appétit writer and video star Priya Krishna’s 2019 cookbook, Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family, is a good place to start, as is James Beard Award-winner Toni Tipton-Martin’s Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking (2019).