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Bear with me, and you'll see this is a toughie. My daughter is studying in Athens. Her computer broke the first day. The mother of a friend she met there is now visiting her own daughter and hand-carried a computer for us all the way from her home in Albia, Iowa, to Athens--and I don't mean Athens, Georgia! Okay, so this is a really nice woman who teaches 3rd grade in a small town in Iowa who did us a huge favor.

I want to send this lovely woman a gift. I begged my daughter to quiz her friend about her mother's interests/hobbies etc and all she came up with is that this woman likes "kitchen stuff." I guess that's a start. I tried to get whether she was a great baker or whatever, but I don't think more info is forthcoming. After all, these are 20-yr olds who are off in a million directions during every conversation. My daughter's only suggestion was that Iowans eat corn and potatoes, which shows you the perspective of a Bay Area native who grew up eating an ethnic stew around Telegraph Ave.

If I hadn't blown all my money on my kid's new macbook I could afford to buy her a nice cashmere scarf for those Iowa winters, but I really can't afford that. What about a cookbook? Could be something heartland specific, or maybe Italian? Something perhaps without a lot of hard-to-get exotic ingredients but sophisticated, for someone who must do some cooking?

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Katie,

It does sound like you have a challenge in finding the perfect gift, knowing the little that you do about the recipient. Since you know she likes 'kitchen things,' a cookbook sounds perfect and very thoughtful.

I have a few suggestions:

Back to Basics by Ina Garten - I've read some great recipes from this book and it is on my short list to buy

The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper: Recipes, Stories, and Opinions from Public Radio's Award-Winning Food Show by Lynne Rossetto Kasper - I don't have it but do enjoy listening to her podcasts, so if the book reflects her shows, it should be good.

Happy in the Kitchen by Michel Richard - I've given this to a couple friends and have it myself. The Faux Gras alone is worth the price of the book! Great layout and photography (even if some of the recipes are a bit contrived for the home cook) and interesting to see his techniques and how he composes food -- I think it reflects his transition from pastry chef to savory chef.

Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff and Zoe - Absolutely worth its weight in gold if your friend has any inclination to making her own bread!

Best,

Sabine

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I would second the suggestion of The Splendid Table How To Eat Supper because I have found it enormously useful.

However, not knowing exactly her preferences would give me pause.

I have for some time been ordering Amazon email gift cards with a gift note explaining that I would have liked to buy a specific gift but not knowing the person's inclination, hoped they would enjoy spending this.

So far, every giftee has been enthusiastic about the easily accessible Amazon purchases and have sent me a note indicating the item or items on which they spent them.

One wrote that she felt justified in buying something that was completely frivolous since it was "free" money and it happened to be an item that she had coveted for some time.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I would second the suggestion of The Splendid Table  How To Eat Supper because I have found it enormously useful.

However, not knowing exactly her preferences would give me pause.

I have for some time been ordering Amazon email gift cards with a gift note explaining that I would have liked to buy a specific gift but not knowing the person's inclination, hoped they would enjoy spending this.

So far, every giftee has been enthusiastic about the easily accessible Amazon purchases and have sent me a note indicating the item or items on which they spent them. 

One wrote that she felt justified in buying something that was completely frivolous since it was "free" money and it happened to be an item that she had coveted for some time.

Another fan of How to Eat Supper here...but I think the Amazon gift certificate is an even better idea. After all, we don't know what is on her bookshelf -- or in her closet -- etc.

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Or a Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table gift certificate since she reportedly likes "kitchen stuff."

Douglas Collins

Hermosa Beach, California

Un dîner sans vin est comme un jour sans soleil.

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Okay, I love this sort of stuff!

Marcia Adams, who used to have a show on PBS, has a fabulous cookbook that I adore, called Cooking from the Heartland. It is out of print, but I do have a lovely copy of it at my shop in S.F. - I always stock it when I can find it because it's one of my favorites. Every chapter covers a different Midwestern state (incl. Ohio), and has history of recipes as well as easy to follow, great recipes, and a list of resources for ingredients and farm stands across the Midwest. I'm not at my store today, but I think it's about $25. If you want it, e-mail me at omnivorebooks@comcast.net and I'll arrange to send it to you.

Best Cincinnatti Chili recipe ever!

Celia

Omnivore Books on Food

New, Antiquarian and Collectible Books on Food

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Okay, I love this sort of stuff!

Marcia Adams, who used to have a show on PBS, has a fabulous cookbook that I adore, called Cooking from the Heartland. It is out of print, but I do have a lovely copy of it at my shop in S.F. - I always stock it when I can find it because it's one of my favorites. Every chapter covers a different Midwestern state (incl. Ohio), and has history of recipes as well as easy to follow, great recipes, and a list of resources for ingredients and farm stands across the Midwest. I'm not at my store today, but I think it's about $25. If you want it, e-mail me at omnivorebooks@comcast.net and I'll arrange to send it to you.

Best Cincinnatti Chili recipe ever!

Celia

I also recommend these from Marcia Adams:

Cooking From Quilt Country

New Recipes from Quilt Country

Heirloom Recipes

Douglas Collins

Hermosa Beach, California

Un dîner sans vin est comme un jour sans soleil.

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Frankly, cookbooks and cooking styles are so personal that I suggest you buy this wonderful woman something else. How about something for her kitchen? or a lovely serving platter? Something she can put in her house, look at, and remember your gratitude.

You could check out the Berkeley Potters Guild for somewhat pricey, but first-rate, unique items.

http://www.berkeleypotters.com/weekendgallery.html

I do think the Amazon gift certificate, if somewhat impersonal, would probably be your best bet.

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Thanks for all your great suggestions. I'm going to paw through the bookstore and look at some of the above titles and think about it some more. I don't know why, but somehow the idea of a book is perhaps more appealing than a gift certificate. I could order one on Amazon, and then if she wants to return it she can--best of both worlds. I know now that she doesn't bake much.

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Thanks for all your great suggestions. I'm going to paw through the bookstore and look at some of the above titles and think about it some more. I don't know why, but somehow the idea of a book is perhaps more appealing than a gift certificate. I could order one on Amazon, and then if she wants to return it she can--best of both worlds. I know now that she doesn't bake much.

I hate gift certificates, but I think in this case, you're better off with one, or with something else. You don't know what books she already has, or what topics she's interested in. If you send her something and she returns it, she'll have to wait about four weeks for a refund, and then she may not even get it since the refunds usually go back on the purchaser's credit card. Plus she'll have to pay for shipping the return (directly or indirectly).

I'd go with sending food. For example, make a care package of local specialty items that would probably be difficult to get in Iowa. The don't even have to be local items.

Or make a bunch of different baked goods and send it along with a nice basket or tray.

Or a gift certificate. I hate them, but in terms of pleasing the person (whom you know little to nothing about), it's the best option.

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Another Iowan chiming in. There is a wonderful place in Des Moines called Gateway Market. Along with outstanding meat and seafood, the cheese and wine departments are great. The produce and bakery items are fresh and mouthwatering. We drive over 100 miles just to stock up on goodies. Remember there are no Whole Food or Trader Jo's in the state so Gateway Market really fills a void. There is also a fantastic cafe in the market. We gave our daughter a gc for her birthday and she was thrilled. Rick Bayless was there last year for a cooking demo but we had to miss it. Anyway, this might be another idea for your friend.

Here's thee website for more info.

www.gatewaymarket.com

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Do you know where Albia is? I have no clue if it's anywhere near Des Moines.

I spent the afternoon at a mediocre bookstore getting frustrated. Since the death of Cody's in Berkeley I don't know where to find a great selection of cookbooks. I looked at the Braising book and it looks great but it's ONLY slow food, and I don't know if she has that kind of time or dedication. Ina Garten's books have some nice simple recipes, but I have to say that they are skimpy for $35 a pop. The food that seemed most appealing actually and with the freshest farm-like ingredients and unfussy recipes was actually Jamie Oliver's Family cookbook, but half the pages are taken up with pictures of HIMSELF whom he must adore and that seems absurd. Then I got side-tracked and started to swoon over the Babbo dessert book and had to stop myself before I spent the money on ME. Now all I can think about is ricotta cheesecake.

So, I'm rethinking and may do a gift cert which seems so...uninspired! I think in addition to that I will send her a jar of the marmalade we made last month. It's very good, and at least it's something a little personal. Even if she's a crackerjack canner she probably doesn't get seville oranges in Albia, Iowa.

Edited by Katie Meadow (log)
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Okay, I love this sort of stuff!

Marcia Adams, who used to have a show on PBS, has a fabulous cookbook that I adore, called Cooking from the Heartland. It is out of print, but I do have a lovely copy of it at my shop in S.F. - I always stock it when I can find it because it's one of my favorites. Every chapter covers a different Midwestern state (incl. Ohio), and has history of recipes as well as easy to follow, great recipes, and a list of resources for ingredients and farm stands across the Midwest. I'm not at my store today, but I think it's about $25. If you want it, e-mail me at omnivorebooks@comcast.net and I'll arrange to send it to you.

Best Cincinnatti Chili recipe ever!

Celia

I also recommend these from Marcia Adams:

Cooking From Quilt Country

New Recipes from Quilt Country

Heirloom Recipes

The "From Quilt Country" books deserve to rank up there with Edna Lewis and James Beard.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Here are my three ideas given the description of what you are looking for.

River Cottage Cookbook

River Cottage Meat Book

Wild Garlic, Gooseberries and Me by Denis Cotter.

All of these books are about the connection between the cook and the land. Wild Garlic is more of a diatribe on his favorite veg than a cookbook, but a very entertaining read.

2 bits

Dan

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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Athens. Greece. Mediterranean.

Quirky interesting book, maybe around the subject of food, but not exclusively a recipe book.

The sort of book one could read for pleasure, even if one wasn't obsessed with food.

How about "Honey from a Weed" by Patience Gray?

Its a bit of a classic, first published 1986.

http://www.amazon.com/Honey-Weed-Feasting-.../dp/190301820X/

Unfortunately, its an expensive paperback by the time it gets to the USA. (It is a bit bigger than most paperbacks.)

However, its only $17 in the UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Honey-Weed-Feastin.../dp/190301820X/ (the reviews are additional to the US ones).

She lived with an impoverished sculptor who was a bit obsessed with marble. So they lived 'close to the land' (generally rather frugally) near various renowned marble quarrying sites. Notably in this context, the Greek island of Naxos. But also Spain, and two rather different bits of Italy.

Its all sorts of things - autobiography, travelogue, cultural history, cookbook and even foraging manual.

Its a very unusual, interesting book - and probably very rare in Iowa!

Do you know what subject(s) she teaches?

Edited by dougal (log)

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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Athens. Greece. Mediterranean.

Quirky interesting book, maybe around the subject of food, but not exclusively a recipe book.

The sort of book one could read for pleasure, even if one wasn't obsessed with food.

How about "Honey from a Weed" by Patience Gray?

Its a bit of a classic, first published 1986.

http://www.amazon.com/Honey-Weed-Feasting-.../dp/190301820X/

Unfortunately, its an expensive paperback by the time it gets to the USA. (It is a bit bigger than most paperbacks.)

However, its only $17 in the UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Honey-Weed-Feastin.../dp/190301820X/ (the reviews are additional to the US ones).

She lived with an impoverished sculptor who was a bit obsessed with marble. So they lived 'close to the land' (generally rather frugally) near various renowned marble quarrying sites. Notably in this context, the Greek island of Naxos. But also Spain, and two rather different bits of Italy.

Its all sorts of things - autobiography, travelogue, cultural history, cookbook and even foraging manual.

Its a very unusual, interesting book - and probably very rare in Iowa!

Do you know what subject(s) she teaches?

Actually that sounds fantastic! She teaches 3rd grade. Maybe I will see if I can locate a used copy on Bookfinder.com.

So do the Marcia Adams books sound great. If there was an easy way to look at some of these suggestions I would do so. Browsing isn't as easy as it used to be. There don't seem to be any great bookstores with large cookbook sections in the East Bay any more. It's really sad.

In the interests of time I finally opted out and sent her a package with a jar of our marmalade, for which we made a great label, and a gift certificate. Thanks to all for your help!

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