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Cookbooks as gifts -- yes or no?


LindaK
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Do you buy cookbooks as gifts? How do you decide what to buy, especially for novice cooks?

'Tis the holiday season, and I'm usually the one on the receiving end of cookbooks. This year, some family members and friends have taken a new interest in cooking and I'm considering giving them cookbooks as gifts. None of them have much cooking experience, some are more adventurous than others.

It's been a long time since I bought a cookbook for anyone but myself. What do you look for when choosing a gift cookbook? Or are cookbooks too personal, is this just a bad idea?


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I generally don't. But I also do not buy general reading material for someone both because of the interest issue, and the possibility that they already own it. As to cookbooks for novices or "not so great" cooks - I fear that might be taken as a dig regarding their abilities. The exception would be if the person has expressed interest in a particular country or cuisine. In that case something with lots of background information and photos along the lines of the "X The Beautiful" series works for me.

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I'm at the point now that if people want to give me books, I prefer they let me know and I'll provide a list to choose from because I have a lot of gifted books that I'm trying to build up enough anti-guilt to get rid of. When I give cookbooks, if I know the person is into them I'll ask if they have any in particular they'd like to have... otherwise I just give them something I've enjoyed and hope they like it too. If not they can add it to their anti-guilt pile. :biggrin:

Edited by Tri2Cook (log)

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I do give cookbooks to people who have specifically asked for a particular one or have given me a list from which to choose.

I have given my daughter several cookbooks, after asking if she wanted them. Otherwise I give gift certificates so they can choose their own or something else.

I give a lot of Amazon gift certificates and they are always much appreciated. I receive many thank-you notes with a report of what was purchased.

It also saves a lot of wrapping paper or gift bags! And I don't have to trek down to UPS, FedEx or the PO.

"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 have given Bittman's How to Cook Everything and Dorie's Baking from My Home to Yours. One of my favorite gifts that I have received was a cookbook in a basket with some of the ingredents for the recipes that one would be less likely to have on hand.

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I have given and received cookbooks with varying degrees of success. Honestly, it's very much like giving or receiving any other books - so much depends on how well you know the person and their library. I have given a few with a basket of ingredients, probably like what Marmish received - mine didn't go over well, but nothing I do does with that particular crowd!

The best received/given have related to particular and narrow interests, but I have also given a few Aussie cookbooks (Bill Granger, Marie Claire, Donna Hay) with good success to people overseas. This is probably because they have a different angle to them, rather than make any statement about cooking ability - plus they have beautiful pictures and simple instructions and ingredients.

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I give cookbooks to my kids, who are now entering their 30s (!!!). I know what they like to cook, what their families like to eat, and what cookbooks they already have, so it works for us. My daughter is getting Around My French Table and for my son, Alton Brown's Good Eats:The Later Years. He turned into a foodie in high school thanks to AB--he and his friends would announce to me at 5 pm they were making me dinner; we'd sit down to something exotic and delicious at 10 pm or so : ) His timing is better now.

I've given How to Cook Everything as a wedding/shower gift a few times and it was well received.

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I really like the idea of including some spices or ingredients with a cookbook gift. I was thinking about a Rick Bayless cookbook for someone who says he enjoys Mexican food and is trying to cook it at home, so maybe some chilis with that.

Both of the Dorie Greenspan books are contenders for other people, but I'd forgotten about the Bittman book. I wonder what ingredients I'd include with those...


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I have given Bittman's How to Cook Everything and Dorie's Baking from My Home to Yours. One of my favorite gifts that I have received was a cookbook in a basket with some of the ingredents for the recipes that one would be less likely to have on hand.

I love this idea. The combo I would want is a Bobby Flay cookbook, along with a basket of all the different dried chilies that he calls for.

As for giving cookbooks as gifts, I've never had much luck with that. I've never gotten one that I really wanted myself, so I tend to shy away from giving them as gifts. My exception is the same as what everybody else is saying, if the person requests a specific cookbook, or gives me a list of things to choose from, then cookbook it is. Other than that, I think the only person I know well enough to pick a cookbook for (and who would actually use it) is my sister.

"...which usually means underflavored, undersalted modern French cooking hidden under edible flowers and Mexican fruits."

- Jeffrey Steingarten, in reference to "California Cuisine".

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I gave Dorie Greenspans "Around my French Table" to two sisters last year. I had purchased the book and knowing what they like to cook I knew they would love it. I figured we could recommend and talk about the recipes throughout the year...One sister has taken to it and the other keeps telling me she plans to try it (a year later).

Years ago our family did a "Consumable only" Christmas...we are trying to stop collecting "stuff"

I gave gift certificates from my favourite butcher and wine to my sisters and one of my sisters gave a new casserole dish filled with a frozen roast, some of the necessary ingredients and the recipe to her families favourite pot roast dish.

It was a successful holiday and we have basically tried to follow these guidelines ever since. No More stuff that will collect dust.

Cookbooks are a subjective gift (as I learned) and I think I would like the idea of the Amazon gift certificates.

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, but I'd forgotten about the Bittman book. I wonder what ingredients I'd include with those...

I have given the Bittman book several times as a wedding present with a very good chef's knife and paring knife. More recently, I have given the Martha Stewart Cooking School book instead to the same sort of beginner cooks, including my son.

I tend to give cookbooks that I've "discovered"--lesser known, non-celebrity type books--and that are personal favorites of mine to friends who like to cook. These books often become their favorites too.

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I only give cook books that I'm certain are on someone's wish list, and The Best Recipe, which is a great choice for a novice who is seriously interested, since it actually explains the processes behind what is being done, and you learn a lot from it. There are a lot of much more exciting and beautiful books out there, but this one really delivers, and everyone I've given it to has used it heavily, and really appreciated it.

As a general rule, I don't like being given cook books, and have more or less implored everyone I know to not give me them: I prefer to choose my own, particularly given some of the ones I've been given in the past (then again, you know something about cook books, so anything you give is likely to be a well-informed choice). Don't know how most other relatively experienced cooks feel about this.

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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True, buying a cookbook for me is a risky proposition. I already have many and I'm fussy about what I want. The people I'm thinking of buying for, though, probably have only a few cookbooks at most and no knowledge of what's out there in cookbook land. It's still risky, I admit.

The idea of giving a knife with a cookbook is a great one, thanks Jane.


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I love getting cookbooks as gifts. My friends and family have given me some excellent ones over the years, the best being books I probably would not have chosen myself.

If you really like a particular cookbook and think a friend or family member would enjoy it, too, why not share? Isn't that what gift giving is about?

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My wonderful sister scours used book stores and finds all kinds of interesting books for me, because she knows I can never have too many, on any subject. Last year she really scored - she found a 1983 Escoffier and a 1961 Larousse, both in really great shape! The funny thing is that she doesn't cook, and had no idea who they were - but she knew I'd like these "cool old books."

I've given classic cookbooks to newlyweds, usually as part of a package deal - if they've asked for a KitchenAid mixer, for example, they get that plus a bunch of other goodies, including a cookbook or two that I think they'll like and use. (I do like to go all out for weddings!)

For less extravagant gift occasions, I love giving a cookbook and maybe a set of wooden spoons or measuring cups, whatever goes with the book, to people who have either asked for a specific title or who want me to choose something for them. For example, my friend Ken, who is newly single and showing an interest in cooking, is getting one of those little hedgehog cheese graters that I love, and Steven Jenkins' Cheese Primer (and some cheese!) this year.

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I love Maida Heatter's books -all of them - and make things from them often. So when people ask about the Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies, or Oreo Pound Cake or Pecan Bars, I give them one of her books, with my comments on the recipe on a post it note.

For novices, I would want to give something comprehensive but not intimidating; a gift certificate and then perhaps a list of books that they might enjoy. If they are really just breaking into cooking, they might not know what to buy and having someone suggest anything by Jacques Pepin would be a help to them; as opposed to buying a Rachel Ray book for anyone other than a teenager. I have nothing against Rachel Ray; my son got one of her for-kids cookbooks when he was 11 and it was perfect for him at the time. Now he doesn't touch it but he looks at my Julia Child Way to Cook...

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I have rarely given cookbooks to people other than family. For a short time we had a Mexican lady doing some cleaning for us. She mentioned that she liked Chinese food so I got her a Chinese cookbook written in Spanish. I hope she has found it useful.

Edited by BarbaraY (log)
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I have given cookbooks as gifts (in fact, I have some friends for whom that's nearly the only gift I ever give) but only to people who I know are going to use and enjoy (and don't already have) them. The only exception to this rule is to young people who are just setting up their own household, to whom I might give a fairly general cookbook along the lines of a Joy of Cooking or a Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything if I don't know their level of competency in the kitchen.

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I have given Bittman's How to Cook Everything and Dorie's Baking from My Home to Yours. One of my favorite gifts that I have received was a cookbook in a basket with some of the ingredents for the recipes that one would be less likely to have on hand.

I love this idea. The combo I would want is a Bobby Flay cookbook, along with a basket of all the different dried chilies that he calls for.

r.

Oh, I like that idea. Can we add more suggestions for combos?

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I decided to go ahead with the “cookbook package” gift idea for a couple of people. I think they’ll like them. Here’s what they’re getting:

Rick Bayless, Mexico—One Plate at a Time

box of assorted chilis and herbs (Mexican oregano, etc) from Penzeys

8” chef knife and paring knife (Forschner, not too expensive)

(note: he already has my old tortilla press)

Dorie Greenspan, Baking from my home to yours

box of assorted spices (cinnamon, etc) and vanilla extract from Penzeys

a “bouquet” of whisks, silicone spatulas, a microplane for zesting


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Think about giving The Flavor Bible...it is the type of book that is helpful for many, but being a reference without glossy photos it may be overlooked by the recipient if they were in a store looking for themselves. Almost everyone I have gifted or advised to buy it have come back to say it has become a regular and useful tool.

"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.

That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

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