The Gift of Giving

There is something about Christmas in the age of mass consumerism which can make us feel dread. The magic we can assert in our children’s imagination at this time of the year, whatever our belief system, can be tainted by the endless need to buy, buy, buy.
The endless round of shopping for gifts: for family, friends, your children’s friends, work colleagues, neighbours, the list goes on. When did it become such a burden to find gifts for our loved ones?

Food is a wonderful way to create a Christmas with our individual family’s soul at the heart of our gift-giving. Not only does it bring a truly personal touch to the gift; it can be very rewarding for the maker, and save money, time and stress.

For the last four years, my husband and I, with our two children, have made a preserve to give as gifts. We go to the market, see what the best deal is on fruit or vegetables, buy a box, find a recipe, and ‘preserve up a storm!’ If preserving seems too scary for you, how about making a killer salad dressing or roasting some seeds or nuts?

Last year we made mango chutney and plum jam. The children loved sucking the mango stones and helping to de-stone the plums. My husband and I enjoyed time spent together as a family creating gifts for others.

Money is saved because you can buy a box of fruit, which will make you quite a few medium jars of preserve, for $10 to 30. That is $1.25 to $3.75 per gift (excluding other ingredients, that cost depends on the recipe you use).

Time is saved because food gifts can take just a couple of hours to make for something simple such as a batch of lovely salad dressing. If you are preserving, it can take a little longer.
The next thing to decide is how fancy you want your labels and/or wrapping to be. We do not wrap, but I like to make nice labels.

Stress becomes ‘Is it set yet?’ or ‘Can you really suck any more mango pips, darling child?’ This is such a nicer level of stress than dragging yourself and your children around shops with ads enticing them to hassle you for more things!

We have found that people are really touched and excited (and sometimes quite greedy) about their homemade food gift. Is it because we rarely do that any more? Or maybe they understand how precious such a gift is. Whether it is one of these or none of these, we love the day we make them, the day we give them, and of course the day we eat them.
One tip: always make enough of the preserve for yourselves; I still crave the mango chutney, which unfortunately ran out in February!

Recipe<br />Sweet Spiced Nuts

(Enough for 3 medium gifts)

  • 200g mixed raw nuts and/or seeds (I like to use almonds, cashews, sunflower, pepitas and sesame seeds)
  • 2 tablespoons mixed spice or cinnamon
  • Finely grated rind of 1 orange
  • 4 tablespoons melted honey
  • Preheat oven to 180C

Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Place on a baking tray and bake for approx 10–15 mins. Nuts burn very easily, so check every 5 mins, until lightly golden.

Remove from the oven and leave them to cool. They will be very hot.

Wrap in beautiful material, place in glass jars, make little boxes? It is up to you and your family.

With children.

  • 1-3: can mix the ingredients together. Can decorate the wrapping.
  • 3-6: can help to measure the ingredients. Can decorate the wrapping.
  • Older children: can practically do it themselves with a little assistance.

Enjoy the making and the giving!

Published in Kindred, Issue 28

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