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Food for Thought: Cheap but good gifts for cooks

Nancy Leson
Good stuff that won't set you back too much

My holiday gift list is limited to just one. Every year I present the Lovely & Talented Cheryl DeGroot with the same fabulous 110-piece socket set (American and metric!) in its handsome presentation case. I love the way she completely hides her excitement when she unwraps it. She’ll return it the next day, but I know it’s only so she can have the fun of getting another next year.

Here are some gift suggestions from Nance and me for the cooks on your list who already have socket sets.

Nancy says “One of the least romantic – and best gifts – Mac ever gave me was a heavy-duty tool box.”  She uses it to pack kitchen gadgets and tools to the cooking classes she teaches.

Nance is wild about beans from Rancho Gordo. Lots of exotic varieties any cook would treasure. And a great hostess gift for any season.

Recently chef Mike Eastonof Il Corvo and Il Nedo gave her an addition to that toolbox: mesh cloths for scrubbing those pesky gobs of raw dough from your hands. I pointed out that just rubbing your hands with dry flour does the same thing, but if  a respected pasta chef like Easton uses them, I wonder if maybe the mesh might be better after all.

Kitchen tweezers are my top choice for an inexpensive gift any cook will find more and more uses for. They’re just the thing for jobs too small for regular tongs.

If you’re thinking of giving a digital scale – and no cook should be without one – getthe kind with the pull-out window. When there's an oversize bowl or plate on the scale you won't have to crouch down with a flashlight to read the weight..

Nancy likes the Champagne Stopper, which keeps the sparkle in the bottle if you put it unfinished back in the fridge. And she swears by the re-usable mesh produce bags a friend of her son gave her.

 “Thanks a million, Diamond Jim.” – Cheryl DeGroot on receiving her first socket set.

Dick Stein joined KNKX in January 1992. He retired in 2020 after three decades on air. During his storied radio career, he hosted the morning jazz show, co-hosted and produced "Food for Thought" with Nancy Leson and wrote and directed the Jimmy Jazzoid live radio musical comedies and 100 episodes of Jazz Kitchen.