Sunday, December 19, 2010

Gifts for Giving: The joy of giving is in the enjoyment.

I've always been proud of my cookies.  After all people have told me repeatedly how good they are, what a good baker I am and have inflated my ego in such a way.  My confidence in my baking is probably what makes me try and make homemade gifts when I have the chance.

Even while living in Hong Kong and Korea I kept up baking.  Ovens in kitchens are NOT standard for most apartments, so when Husband started looking for places, I insisted on an oven.  It narrowed down our choices quite a bit because if there was no oven, it was a no go.  In both countries Husband searched until he found the apartment that met our requirements,  including the oven.  It meant I could keep up baking despite our far off locale.  I was able to source many ingredients in both countries (even though they were MUCH more expensive) and what I couldn't source, Sister-in-law or other visitors would bring me, things like chocolate chips, toffee chips, and vanilla extract which were three of the harder items to find.

Which meant baking was pretty precious.  I baked with the idea that I was offering something really special to the recipient.  Husband wouldn't even let me bake often for his office mates because he said it "spoiled" them for regular baked goods and that I shouldn't waste such precious gifts on them.  (I still baked for them; Husband grudgingly took them to work where there were always received with such gratitude).  One day Husband was invited to a office party at someone's home and we were to go.  Already I freaked out because I don't like meeting people (read about that here) and I couldn't think of a hostess present to bring.  Husband then said that perhaps bringing some of my homemade cookies, beautifully wrapped would be a nice gift.  I thought about it and agreed that some of my amazing cookies, perfect with their imported chocolate chips and vanilla would be a lovely hostess present.  I even had special bakery boxes that I could put them in, tie with ribbon and present to the hostess.

With plenty of trepidation and worry, we all set off to the house of this office party.  Upon our arrival, I handed the boxes to the hostess who took them with a smile and whisked them away to the kitchen.  She then invited us to sit in the living room with the other guests and I started panicking as it's my least favorite setting to be with new people...intimate in a living room.  EEEEK!  I excused myself as gracefully as I could so that I could go the kitchen and feed Daughter #1, who was still a baby at the time.  (maybe 7 months old.)  I went to the kitchen where the hostess had hired a chef and a helper to cook all the food for the dinner.  She gave them brief instructions and walked out of the kitchen leaving me there alone with Daughter and the two chefs.  In the corner I saw the two boxes of cookies I had painstakingly made and packaged and I assumed that later, for dessert, these cookies would be put out.  As I finished feeding Daughter #1, the chef and her assistant began preparing to leave.  The hostess came back into the kitchen and proceeded to give away the cookies that I had made to these two women.  I saw her pick up the two white boxes and give one to each of them telling them to take them home.

She probably didn't know that I had made them homemade.  She maybe didn't want her husband to eat them.  Perhaps because I wasn't a famous blogger back then, she didn't really know what they were worth.  But yes she gave away those precious cookies.  And my appetite to eat anything completely left me and I spent the rest of the evening talking to the two daughters of the house and not the hostess at all.  I was too hurt.

It was over five years ago this happened and I have to look back and laugh at my dismay.  It was an ego buster for sure - to have something that I considered one of my best gifts completely unappreciated and thrown away.  It was a reality check for me as well, because it made me realize, that as much as I enjoy the baking and the giving of homemade goods, I really enjoy the thought of how the person who receives the gift is going to react, appreciate and enjoy my hard work.  The thinking and the time invested in preparing a homemade gifts pushes that emotion a bit further than just buying a present.  I bake with the recipients in mind, thinking of their enjoyment and that is what makes me happy.

But I also learned a bit of a lesson.   I have to appreciate the fact that SOMETIMES what I make may not be appreciated.  I have to live with that.  And that's okay.  For every ten people for whom I bake, there may be two or three that don't like it or enjoy it.  However, I let that not stop me every season from putting together different packages and boxes of baked goods to do.

This year, my schedule was much busier due to my work so I decided to go more simply and do things that I could do more quickly and easily.  I made the decision to pair two salty sweet treats as they are my favorite and I know that many really enjoy it. Pecan Rolo Pretzels and Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

I used these biopak #4 boxes which I picked up at Smart and Final.  (About $16 for 40 boxes - these are deep because I like to sometimes pack cupcakes in them).   I tucked a note like this in them.  (It's a little pun for fun, although I don't know if anyone got it.)

Tucked the note inside the box and then tied it with ribbon.

Now, just for the record, I am not a crafty person.  I like wrapping to be beautiful but simple and not involving anything that could possibly make me do too many cuts or something.   And I like wrapping ideas that use up what I have available and doesn't require me to buy it.  This is how I wrapped cookies for the church event I had this evening.  Take a scrap piece of wrapping paper long enough to wrap around the box and then tape it around making a little seal on the package. 

If you have different wrapping paper scraps, you can do a set of these.

Here are some other ideas for great food as gifts items.
Pecan Rolo Pretzels (also can be done with almonds or walnuts as well)
Crispy Chewy Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
Oatmeal Toffee Cookies with Cranberries
Sweet and Spicy Candied Nuts


Joy said...

That us agreat way os packaging goodies.

Claire said...

Dear Joanne, that was one VERY rude hostess indeed! Even if your cookies were store bought, it was still really rude to give them away in your presence. Unbelievable!

I just LOVE your stories, it makes your blog so special. And you are honest to boot, a rare find.

Aside from that, I just love your recipes, esp the Korean barbecue ones!

Sarah said...

Thanks for this great gift wrapping idea! I bought little take out boxes from Smart & Final and cut a strip of wrapping paper to package my homemade granola.


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