Sunday, July 14, 2024

What to Get Your Parents and Your Favorite Vegan for the Holidays

This post originally appeared in the November 12, 2023 edition of Add to Cart, the weekly newsletter for people who like shopping (almost) as much as they love eating. Subscribe now.

The gift guides have started rolling out, with all of the usual shopping inspiration and aspiration. At Eater, we kicked things off with a gift guide for hosts, both those hosting your holiday festivities this year and those who are more hosts in spirit. And as promised, I’ll be answering your gift-giving questions all season long. So let’s get into it, with two queries from a fellow Eater editor.

My partner has Alpha-Gal Syndrome, which is that wild allergy you get from a tick that makes you allergic to mammalian products. That means no dairy, no gelatin, nada. Historically, he loved croissants and other pastries, but is now relegated to Earth Balance muffins and vegan cookies. I’d love to get him a baking book that includes pastries he’d actually like — bonus points for really great vegan laminated pastries, if they even exist? Any ideas?

It’s been said that it’s never been a better time to eat vegan baked goods, and I’d also argue that the avenues for baking them yourself are also at an all-time high. It’s possible, though, that this last point only stands thanks to a new book from Philip Khoury: A New Way to Bake: Re-Imagined Recipes for Plant-Based Cakes, Bakes and Desserts.

Khoury handles the pastry for Harrods, and in that role has introduced a robust number of plant-based products into the British department store’s food halls. The book, just published in September, does not include laminated pastries in the traditional sense, but there is a pain aux raisins that uses Khoury’s “vrioche” dough as a base. Some of the recipes are projects (that pain aux raisins included), but there are just as many that’ll provide a quick route to baked good satisfaction — I’ve had my eye on the Sacher torte, which has only six ingredients, all of which I have on hand.

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My mother is a great cook, and she is also so difficult to shop for. I’ve given her cookbooks she ignores, knives she neglects, and pantry items she lets spoil. I would love to get her something she’d actually use, but she won’t tell me what that is and I am seemingly not good at guessing. Any ideas for a not-super-expensive (under $100?) kitchen essential she’d actually use? Ideally, this is something that doesn’t require a ton of upkeep — in other words, no cast iron.

You could, as Jaya Saxena suggests here, get something that you’d be happy enough to use yourself when at her place — but if we are prioritizing usability, I think it’s best to lean into simplicity. Rather than introduce a new tool or appliance, opt for a nicer version of something that already fits comfortably into her routine. The spoons from Gestura might fit the bill. The company started out just making one spoon — for measuring, stirring, and serving — really well, and now, there’s a slotted version. The pair would make a lovely gift. An elegant, yet functional, wooden spoon might also be nice.

However, I would be remiss not to mention that it is recommended that these items be hand washed. If that’s a barrier, you can’t go wrong with a set of all-purpose bowls, ones that can be used for mixing or as a garbage bowl in the Rachael Ray sense, but look good enough to occupy a permanent spot on the counter. This cheery melamine set from the MoMA Design Store is indeed dishwasher safe.

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