Perfect packaging and other Christmas gifts
I have my own New Year and Christmas tradition: Giving people culinary gifts I have made myself. My German grandmother’s intense appreciation of “Hausgemachte Geschenken/homemade gifts” remains with me.
Even a small handmade gift is way more precious than a readymade bought one, though I must admit my grandmother’s tastes were for the “billig und gut/budget friendly and good,” essential values for any lady who has experienced two world wars and raised six children in an impoverished Turkey during the early years of the Republic. Beyond the constraint of making ends meet, New Year gift giving was never a tradition in Turkey, even if you could find gifts in pre-capitalism times.
Paucity fuels creativity. My grandfather became a talented carpenter who crafted wooden toys. Christmas decorations were all handmade and hand-sewn. Woven or embroidered items were created. Even packaging and gift wrapper were hand printed or painted. Each one of them was memorable. Their packaging perfectly expressed the love we felt for each other. Needless to say, the preparation process of home-made gifts demanded much labor, attention and thought, but above all it required one crucial ingredient hard to come by these days: Time.
In today’s hectic world, devoting large amounts of time to crafting homemade gifts is almost unimaginable. The second best option is to find gifts that are already made with loving care and attention. There is a saying: The path to the heart is through the stomach! Why not make a culinary gift? If you cannot make your own, pick ones that have the same homemade quality, and choose exquisite artisanal tastes produced with utmost care in small quantities. Here are a few favorite picks for the perfect package:
Fantastic Fernando: The incredible Cenk Sönmezsoy describes himself as an obsessive home-baker. He is indeed. His award-winning blog www.cafefernando.com has dedicated followers. In addition to his baking talents, he is an obsessive and fastidious photographer. Check out his blog, which is full of endless ideas for the festive season. Some are surprisingly easy, such as the “Blonde Chocolate, Tahini and Sesame Truffles.” Alternatively his new book could make the most perfect gift of the year: The Artful Baker: Extraordinary Desserts from an Obsessive Home Baker by Cenk Sönmezsoy (Abrams).
Pure Pomegranate: Anyone familiar with Turkish cuisine knows the merits of pomegranate extract, or molasses as it is sometimes called. It is not only crucial in certain Turkish recipes, but adapts well to world cuisine, with its exquisitely balanced sweet and sour tastes, similar to an aged balsamic vinegar. However, it is not always easy to find a trustworthy and high-quality source. Now we have the perfect pomegranate in a bottle. Punica describes itself as pure pomegranate. Made in the south-eastern province Urfa from a mixture of local pomegranate varieties, their pretty bottles are fit for your festive table, and have an excellent sweet and sour balance: http://www.sadecenar.com/en/
Outstanding Olive: A good olive oil is always welcome as a present, especially if unfiltered cold-pressed early harvest, just a few weeks before the festive season. Olivurla oils, made by Pelin Omuroğlu from Urla, have won a host of awards including the gold medal of the Organic BIOL and Mario Solinas awards. http://www.ayerya.com/index.php/en/
Smile with Cheese: No festive table is complete without good cheese. If looking for a real artisanal-family-owned goat cheese producer, look for Miralem cheeses from Izmir, Emiralem, Menemen. Canan Urhan followed her passion, learning cheese making in France. Her cheeses are uniquely her own, though French in style. They are also local and artisanal. Each cheese features a different quirky funny Turkish name as well. https://www.miralem.com.tr/index.php?route=common/home
Puzzling Plank: Puzzle Boards by much-loved food celebrity Refika Birgül is the perfect gift for anyone, and the perfect item for your festive cheese board. Playful and fun, it will add humor to your cheese course, and match perfectly with the kooky cheeses of Canan Urhan. Check out other kitchen items as well: http://www.refikadan.com/
Perfect Package: If you want to pack your gifts with a unique style, check out Bo-Bo Bohem Burjuva by Aysun Berkant. Another impassioned woman, she supports women’s cooperatives and creates her own designs produced by women. The gift wrapping is handmade, tasteful and lovingly printed. https://bohemburjuva.com/urun-kategori/mutfak/