Monday, May 08, 2006

SB Day: Recipes for the Heart

On this Smart Bitches day instead of talking about Romance, the genre of fiction, let’s talk about the other kind of romance.

ro·mance (rō-măns', rō'măns')n.
  • A love affair.

  • Ardent emotional attachment or involvement between people; love: They kept the romance alive in their marriage for 35 years.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, and while many might claim that it is a mere Hallmark Holiday invented to get you to spend money, others are out there desperately searching for the perfect gift for their wife, mother, sister, or daughter. These men and woman are looking for the perfect way to say “I love you, and I’ve been thinking about you,” and according to the latest numbers I’ve seen America believes in saying this with a cookbook.

That’s right. A cookbook. Giada, Rachel, and this guy who goes by Naked are all flying off my shelves to go home to a mom near you.

This is not a new phenomenon; at Christmas we renamed Rachel Ray Mrs. Claus because she was finding her way under so many Christmas trees. I’m sure if you looked at sales numbers for cookbooks throughout the decades you would notice a bump around the holidays because nothing says “I love you” like “Here’s this cookbook now get in the kitchen and make me this pie.”

You see, the problem with cookbooks is that there seems to be some sort of expectation with them. By giving someone a cookbook, especially your mom, you seem to be saying “Here, try some new recipes because I don’t like what you’re making.” It’s not the intent, I’m sure, but there is that belief that you’ll be there to taste the results. It’s not an unselfish giving.

I know that there are people out there that love to get cookbooks (I’m a bit of a Cooking Light food porn whore myself), but the giving of a cookbook—especially on Mother’s Day—appears to be a cop-out. For many it’s the “I don’t know what to get you, Mom, so I got you this.”

If you want to get her something food-related then go with chocolate, or an IOU for a nice meal out (just the two of you) at her favorite restaurant or someplace new. Or maybe instead you can get her some fun candles, or funky coasters, or a pretty necklace. You could put together a gift basket of gift cards to her favorite stores and shops. Gifts don’t have to be expensive or gratuitous, just a way to say “I love you with no strings attached, and I’ve been paying attention to what you like.”

Remember, if you don’t know what to get her or it comes down to a time crunch, you don’t need a cookbook she may or may not want to say “I love you,” a card will suffice just as well and without the possibility of it being returned.

So what are some Mother’s Day gifts that you’ve given that have gone over spectacularly in the past?

(Some people would love the help.)


Kate R said...

I say a cookbook beats a leaf blower. That's what I got one year. Oh and a shopvac another year. What does that say?

mk said...

My mother's favorite MD gift to date: a cordless drill. It's what she asked for, and she has put it to good use. This year, it's a new mobile phone, again because that's what she has asked for. Not having to surprise Mom makes it a lot easier for us.

jmc said...

Gifts that have gone over well on MD: new tires (at mom's request); a porch swing; dangly earrings and other sparkly jewelry; and, a variety of books, none of which were cookbooks. In fact, the only person I ever buy cookbooks as gifts is my brother-in-law, The Chemist.

Advice I've given to guys: unless mom/wife/sister/etc. asked for a specific cookbook, don't do it. It's as bad as giving an iron or vacuum or other household appliance unasked. If it's a gift for the wife/SO/etc., you will not be getting any until it is returned or replaced by something with a less loaded mom/homemaker message.

quiche said...

DVDs are a good choice. One of the best gift I gave my mom was the 'Imitation of Life' DVD. She enjoyed watching and crying along with it many, many times. If she already owns all her favorite movies on DVD maybe a favorite TV show would do? However I would not recommend 'The Golden Girls' unless she tells you she loves that show. In addition to the no appliances rule you don't want to make your mom feel older than she is. Trust me.

Lisa Hunter said...

People give me cookbooks all the time, even though I don't cook. Sure, I'll stir something around in a pan for sustenance, but I haven't followed a recipe since sixth grade home ec. I consider cooking a household chore above vacuuming but below ironing. Please, people, I'd rather have a book about how to starch button-down collars than another illustrated tome about "tortes" that aren't cakes and "bisques" that aren't seafood-based. And what's with all the arugula, cilantro and raspberry coulee on everything from pork chops to tuna salad?

Next holiday, I'd prefer a nice selection of take-out menus, preferably from restaurants that don't serve tiny delicate morsels on big white plates for $36 a portion.

Penny said...

We're not big spenders--I send handmade cards and photos, maybe make a donation to a good cause in the moms' names. On the receiving end, I usually just get my favorite takeout for Mother's Day dinner. (See, I'm thinking takeout like Lisa, the above commenter.)

But if there's something I'm wanting anyway, a book or CD or art supplies, I'll get it and use Mother's Day as an excuse--sometimes I'll even wrap it and let my kids hand it to me.

Louise Brooks said...

Here, on another West Coast, in a bookstore by the sea (well, over the hill and down the road) we have been experimenting with turning a $70.00 AUS dollar cookbook into the world's most expensive gift table book and it's been working for us. Silver Spoon has been running out the door and now MD is upon is we can't keep up. The other big seller is another cook book called Apples For Jam - beautiful cover-what red shoes have to do with cooking I don't know but no one seems to mind. I'd like to let you know that in Australia customers are after that same book without title or author but here it is red (you know the red one, the one that was on televsion, it has The in the title, I think.....) Greetings from the Book Trenches....

lady t said...

I usually give my mom the latest Mary Higgins Clark(MNC is good about having a new book out in time for MD)-May is tricky since my mom's birthday is also in May.

I've never given her a cookbook(she's an excellant cook but not into gourmet style) but have gotten her crafting items from time to time. My best suggestion for MD shopping is find out what the lady likes and doesn't have,then search for it. Otherwise,flowers are a safe bet:)

Shanna Swendson said...

Books, books, and more books are the preferred gifts for my mom. No cookbooks, though. She wants novels -- science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, etc. Fortunately, most of my friends are authors, so it's easy for me to get copies autographed for an even more special gift. She's retired, and reading is how she spends much of her time, so the more books, the better.

And then she usually shares the ones I give her as gifts with me when she's through with them. :-)

Elsandra said...

I gave my mother a cookbook but not because I expect her to make something from it. The cookbook was compiled from all the cooks on the big lakers (ships) that travel the Great Lakes. Mom is fascinated by the ships and I bought the cookbook more for the histories of the ships and crews described inside. Besides, she knew if one of the recipes caught her eye she could get me to cook it for her! Mom cooks but she loves to have me cook for her more and more and I'm happy to oblige-but not because she's a bad cook, I just love cooking. Guess it's because I learned from such a good cook.