a peek inside the fishbowl

19 Dec, 2016

FOOD. Is it the best Christmas gift?

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Oh! Things!

I have a very long story to share in the New Year about a special challenge my family has undertaken this past year. For now, I will say this: Mark and I aren’t exchanging Christmas gifts this year and we have laid out some criteria as it pertains to our stockings. The criteria is this: FOOD GIFTS ONLY. Why?

  • Food can be enjoyed and appreciated just as much as any Christmas gift that is wrapped up and left under the tree.
  • It’s the perfect gift for people who have everything.
  • Certain consumables might cost a few dollars extra, but on the flip side, they are are often things the person will never buy themselves… thus making an extra special gift. (e.g. balsamic vinegar that costs $30/bottle.)
  • Unlike knickknacks, there is no dusting or storage required if you buy food. Plus, one size fits all! Food items will also never end up in a landfill. Plus…
  • Food items tend not to be too badly overpackaged, so one might say they can be a more environmentally-friendly gift to give.

Sidebar: I’ve been buying bags of walnuts and mixed nuts in the shell at our local Farm Boy and just dumping them in the bowl for interactive holiday snacking. It is amazingly satisfying to crack a nut open and eat it. (Flying shells be dammed! No one has lost an eye yet.)

So what food gifts are on my radar at the moment? Good question:

  • I actually prefer salty snacks to sweet ones, but these Himalayan pink salt caramels and Sweet Georgia Browns from Purdy’s are to die for. They are tied for first place in the Andrea’s Favourite Chocolate category.
  • And speaking of chocolate, I have a serious weakness for mint thins. The Divine dark chocolate mint thins at ten Thousand Villages are very good, and a hot item around the holidays. (I might have the last box of Divine mint thins in the entire world. Saw-reee! You can refresh this page like a lunatic to see if they come back in stock. ETA: The website indicates that this set is still available at the Westboro store!)
  • Speaking of Ten Thousand Villages, I have written about this here before but this would be a great gift for someone as well. Za’atar makes our homemade pita chips really sing.
  • In case you’re wondering if it would be weird to slip of bottle of really nice balsamic vinegar into someone’s stocking the answer is NO. The good stuff is really expensive and I rarely buy it for myself even though I love it. You can pick some up at the Ottawa Bagelshop or at a shop like Nicastro’s.
  • Have you seen the gorgeous cookies at Thyme & Again? Enough said:

  • … Thyme & Again also sells home-made marshmallows, although you may regret eating one because you will never ever be able to go back to eating those packaged poofy things they call marshamallows at the grocery store that are really just sad shadows of marshmallows.
  • Herbs and spices are also a great gift for someone who likes to cook and eat good food. Kitchenalia in Westboro is under new ownership and they carry a range of spices and fancy salt. Cardamom and Cloves closed the storefront on Preston Street but maintain a mail-order service. Check out the spice blends too!
  • Mail order wine, beer, and cheese. YES. It’s a thing. (!)

I wasn’t going to mention cookbooks – there are too many beautiful cookbooks out there! – but I did get a heads up about a new publication by Peter and Chris Neal, Canadian foodies and co-owners of Neal Brothers Foods. Their book, called Goodness, features recipes and stories from 37 Canadian ‘food fighters’ and 50% of the proceeds help Community Food Centres Canada to ensure that all Canadians have access to good food. You can learn more about that right here. (There’s a droolworthy recipe for Ginger Stout Cake with orange meringue & coffee caramel that I may just try in the new year.) Given the ‘giving back’ aspect I thought it would be a nice option to include here. :)

Tell, me, do you have a foodie in your life? If you have any gift ideas to share I’m all ears. :)


ps. This just in! A Fishbowl reader who is CLEARLY OF THE SAME MIND AS I AM is looking for a unique food-related gift to have delivered to her inlaws in Ottawa. Your ideas are needed! (I’m wondering if cookie basket deliveries are a thing?)


9 Responses to "FOOD. Is it the best Christmas gift?"

1 | andrea tomkins

December 19th, 2016 at 3:50 pm


Thinking out loud here. Has anyone tried Givopoly? There are some food baskets on their site that look pretty nice. Here’s one called Urban Gourmet. (YUM.)

2 | Claudette

December 20th, 2016 at 9:54 am


I bake extra Swiss-type Xmas cookies which are a little different than the North American ones and give those. Now, I say this but it’s hard for me to do extra batches of baking anything since I’m more of a cook than a baker, but the delight in my North American friends and family always makes it worth it.

Balsamic vinegar in a stocking? My mom gifts me with various flavoured oils! :) Absolutely we give stuff like that!

3 | Lynn

December 20th, 2016 at 9:55 am


I am the farthest thing from a foodie in the world but I love the idea of consumable gifts, especially for our parents who are looking to downsize and don’t need more stuff. Going to check out all of these – especially the treats – for my gift list (which I’m still working on, sigh).

4 | Vivian

December 20th, 2016 at 10:41 am


In years past, I’ve gotten my parents a gift basket of things I think they’ll like from the Chinese markets that they probably wouldn’t splurge on for themselves. Things like the “fancy” XO sauce that they keep behind the locked cabinet at the Kowloon, certain dried seafoods (that I personally have no idea what to do with, but I assume fall under the ‘excellent for soup’ and ‘good for you’ categories), and a few small packages of ‘treats’ that I know they enjoy, like certain types of crackers or candies.

5 | Tarah

December 20th, 2016 at 11:18 am


Best and most timely post Andrea! ?
I’m wondering if any of the cheese shop/delis in the market do baskets/would deliver?

6 | andrea tomkins

December 20th, 2016 at 2:35 pm


Did you check the link to Givopoly Tarah? That’s the only one I can think of at the moment!

7 | Tarah

December 21st, 2016 at 5:20 am


I did! Thank you! I’m going to call a few places today and if can’t get exactly what I’m looking for plan to order one of the local food baskets.

8 | Mary Jaekl

December 20th, 2016 at 12:06 pm


In theory this is great; but in our family full of food allergies this is a trend that makes the holidays more difficult. Until you can’t eat most of what’s on offer you don’t realize how much our celebrations seem to revolve around food.

Even if you have adapted to your restrictions, constantly being gifted food you can’t eat is very wearing (for context: I’ve been celiac for over a decade, which is relatively straightforward whereas this is my sister’s first Christmas with severe restrictions). It’s much worse if the person has tried to select something they think you should be able to eat (e.g. Expensive vinegar), but didn’t call the company and the line is contaminated with (e.g.) pepper, which means that you can’t have it. So then you not only have a gift you can’t eat, you had to spend time to verify that it isn’t safe AND now you have to either lie about whether you can use it (likely leading to a cupboard full of stuff you can’t use) or manage the disappointment of the person who gifted it in the first place. And yes, I’m afraid it often does end up in the garbage or compost here.

So while I think it’s an awesome idea for many, please be mindful of those for whom food isn’t an easy, thoughtful consumable gift if you are looking for random things to take over to those people you don’t know well…

9 | andrea tomkins

December 20th, 2016 at 2:31 pm


Fair point Mary! If I knew allergies or food sensitivities were part of the picture I would never deign to know better and give a food gift.

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