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Five perfect gifts to thank your host(s)

August 2, 2013

I had lunch with a good friend last week, and whilst doing the usual ‘what have you been up to?’, she expressed her frank annoyance over a family issue.  She’d been good enough to host a number of lunches, dinners and barbeques recently and whilst she had immensely enjoyed the pleasure of spending time with family, she was a bit dismayed that all her efforts had gone unrewarded.

Don’t get me wrong – she wasn’t expected to be showered with gifts and praise.  But a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates wouldn’t have gone amiss and would have been a token gesture that said “thank you” for the effort.  I could completely emphasise because it has happened to me in the past (though not too frequently and not of late, I must hastenly point out.  In fact the last guests we had round literally did shower us with gifts: two bottles of wine, handmade sweets, a big bouquet of flowers and a jar of chutney! They can come again…but I digress).

So, it got me to thinking about what ideal gifts are.  I don’t think you can argue with the statement that homemade or home grown is best.  After all, it simply SHOUTS effort.  But don’t let that put you off buying something if you’re short of time.  After all, a gift is a gift.  And a gift says “Thanks for taking the time to make me a lovely lunch, dinner or whatever.  I made a little bit of effort of my own in buying/making/growing you this/these gifts”.

So, here are my five suggestions for the perfect gifts to thank your host(s):

1. SOW it:  Seeds are cheaper than chips and if you’re in the habit of sowing the odd veg or flower seeds, why not overdo it and have some left for pressies?  I recently gave my Dad some Chard plants as part of his Father’s Day present and he was well chuffed.  They are now getting big and tasty up his allotment.  Probably cost me about 20p for the tray (I even reused a tray that I had bought some flowers from a garden centre).  Hopefully my Dad won’t feel offended if he reads this!  Herbs are another great present and something that are invaluable to most cooks.  Generally really easy to grow on a windowsill too, even if you aren’t very green-fingered.

2. GROW it: I can’t think of anything nicer than when somebody gives me a bowl of raspberries and blackberries that they’ve picked, or a handful of courgettes because they have a glut from their garden.  Vegetables not your thing?  Do you have any flowers growing in your garden that could make up your own hand-tied bunch?  With these kind of gifts, it’s all about the presentation, so lose the Tesco carrier bag and find a pretty paper bag for your home-grown tomatoes.  Or splash a little cash and buy a pretty bowl for your produce that can be part of the present.

3. MAKE it:  It doesn’t matter if you’re not a craft wizard or a cooking goddess; I bet there is something you can make with your own fair hands that somebody would like to receive as a gift.  Remember the days of compilation cassettes?  Well, just because the tape has been replaced by CDs doesn’t mean the effort you could put into making one wouldn’t still charm your host.  A more traditional route would be chutneys or jams – you could make a batch of three or four jars at once, then you’re all set for your next few social engagements.  Remember to adorn them with pretty labels and a touch of ribbon.   Or how about a bag of skittles, some vodka and an interesting looking bottle?  Sloe gin is another one that is fun to make and even better to present as a thank you.

4. BAKE it:  Who can resist the charm of home-baked goods?  Cupcakes are my easy option, because not only can I practically make them in my sleep, but because I haven’t yet found anyone that doesn’t like them.  Big chewy cookies are another firm favourite.  Whilst the idea of a home-crafted loaf is lovely, try to avoid gifts that only have a short shelf-life; from experience, I find I always over-cater for dinner parties and similar occasions and so me and the husband are eating leftovers for a couple of days.  It would be a shame if your hosts felt like they had to rush the enjoyment of your home-baked gift.

5. BOX it: Short of time and ideas?  Then just buy, make or recycle an attractive box and fill it full of something your host would like.  That could be something from one of the categories above, or the offerings of a quick trip to the local supermarket.  Whatever you choose, the box will elevate it into something that you’ve put a bit more thought into.  I like making mini hampers; a jar of a preserve, some old-fashioned sweets or chocolates, maybe a little bottle of a nice oil (Truffle oil is a good one!), some posh sea salt and perhaps a little truckle of cheese.  Things that you might not buy for yourself but that you would relish and enjoy nonetheless.

Here’s a link to a couple of my recipes that would make ideal gifts for your hosts:

Rocky Roads
Chocolate Viennese Marshmallow Sandwiches
Curry Sauce for…Everything

I’d love to hear about any home-made/grown gifts that you take as a guest.

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