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The holiday gift guide for broke food lovers

In case you missed it, the Food section just put out our official holiday gift guide, with classy recommendations like limited edition beers, custom fancy bagels and culinary apparel. It comes in the midst of lots of other excellent gift guides, like Helen Rosner’s phenomenal list of otter-shape rice molds, scone-scented candles, whole country hams and much, much more. I’m sure there are some of you that wouldn’t blink at purchasing a $299.95 pasta-extruding machine for a loved one (please send me one), but this gift guide’s not about that — this is a guide for those who don’t have the biggest holiday budget but aren’t quite at the Christmas avocado stage yet. (Somehow, just one item on the list is sourced from Supreme Lord Jeff Bezos.)

Everything listed here is about $15 or less, making it perfect for white elephant exchanges, stocking stuffers or fellow cheapos who love a good bargain.

Gay apparel to don (in the “Deck the Halls” sense)

I confess that I’m a total dork who loves wearing food-ish clothing, like mushroom berets and hot pot sweaters. If your giftee similarly isn’t afraid to flash a little food bling on the street, there are options. Consider this stunning pink enamel concha pin ($10.26), whose grooves are highlighted by its gold metal setting. Or, for the chip fiend in your life, nothing could be grander than a painstakingly detailed pair of miniature Lay’s chip bags ($10.64) for the ears, customized to their favorite variety.

That said, I acknowledge that most people are aiming for more subtlety with such things. A pin commemorating the iconic neon signage at San Francisco institution Tommy’s Joynt ($10) is about food, but not about food, and will be the envy of any Bay Area old-timer. If obscurity is your aim, check out this elaborate hinged pizza box pin ($12) inspired by the in-development indie game, Pizza Tower; it opens to reveal a structurally compromised pie. 

Household doodads

Since I’ve started working from home, I’ve become more invested in stylish creature comforts, like sweatpants and mugs with cool logos. Unlike my video game mugs, this sweet drinkware from the Tenderloin Museum ($15) would be a great conversation-starter: It’s a tribute to the Compton’s Cafeteria riot of 1966, a pivotal moment in the trans rights movement. Less functional but still pretty slick is this silicone Airpod case cover that looks like a piece of well-braised pork belly ($15.42). If you’ve got friends with babies on the way, these felt xiaolongbao ($12.13) will be good training for future dim sum trips; if the baby’s a vegan, there’s always broccoli ($15). 

For better living through good engineering

Most people put up with suboptimal kitchen conditions because it feels sort of decadent to invest in things that might make life marginally better, but that just makes this category even more exciting for gift-giving. This holiday season, give the gift of a life where coffee never gets cold ($11.99); where hydration is never an issue ($10.04); where every corner of every grilled cheese is seared ($14); and where nothing ever falls into that weird crevice between the stove and the kitchen counter ($6.99). Is your giftee still using chopsticks sourced from takeout orders? Give them a pair of chopsticks ($8.50) crafted from the wood of fruit trees and coated in natural beeswax for minimal slippage. A great gift for your survivalist cousin would be this Japanese can opener ($10) that’s lightweight and easy to pack in a go-bag or camping gear. 

Cookbooks and more esteemed literature

A book is always an excellent present to give, and fewer books enhance one’s life more than cookbooks and other how-tos. Ensure your giftee has a lifetime of wholesome, affordable meals ($15.59), a continuous supply of wild mushrooms ($16.54) or luxurious backyard quail eggs ($10). Don’t overlook the wide world of zines, either, which include gems like an illustrated Korean recipe collection ($5) that includes an option for a handwritten note in Hangul or these vintage recipes, scavenged from old recipe cards ($5.25).

Gifts for the gullet

Edible presents have multiple benefits: First, they’re delicious; and second, whenever your giftee uses it, they’ll think about how wonderful you are. They’ll contemplate your gentle demeanor as they sprinkle lip-numbing Sichuan pepper oil ($12.95) or coconut-cilantro chutney ($40.99 for four — dole them out!) over homemade mapo tofu. Your dewy and kind eyes will be the topic of conversation over punchy bowls of Thai chicken laab ($12). As they sprinkle calendula flower petals ($10) over a frosted cake, they’ll sigh as they remember a particularly funny quip of yours. And if your giftee loves a project, stuff that stocking with some dehydrated sourdough starter ($10.95) a descendent of a starter in a remote mountain village in Tajikistan.

https://www.sfchronicle.com/food/article/The-holiday-gift-guide-for-broke-food-lovers-16673713.php