Homemade Christmas Food Gifts

by admin on December 7, 2011

Being a poor university student, I often struggle with buying affordable and useful Christmas presents. This year, as I am a fairly good cook, I made hand dipped chocolate truffles in three different flavours. While materials-wise these presents were inexpensive, I put a great deal of time and effort into them, resulting in very professional looking truffles. About a week before Christmas I gave some to my boyfriend of a year to share with his family (mother, who I get on well with, and a teen-aged brother), with the message that they do not have to be kept until Christmas, and as they have cream in them there is an expiry date. This is in addition to presents that I have gone out and bought for them all.

After Christmas, I’m at my boyfriend’s place (he still lives at home) and see that my box of truffles has been wedged into a corner of the fridge and is untouched. I was rather put out about this – to have put time and effort into something only to have it ignored (and it’s not as if anyone in the house is dieting or has food allergies, and the truffles my family received were appreciated, so it couldn’t have been the taste – not that anyone had any). In the end I had to throw them away (due to the cream). I know she didn’t do it intentionally, and she is otherwise a nice lady, but it made me feel that my efforts were unappreciated. And I never did receive a thank you.  0101-10

I love making and giving food gifts at Christmas.  Over the years I’ve made gourmet marshmallows cut into snowflake shapes that I combined with hot chocolate mix, chocolate pizzas, white chocolate dipped Ritz cracker/peanut butter sandwiches, jams, etc.  all lovingly wrapped in attractive packaging.  This year I’m giving jars of Strawberry Margarita Jam, Carrot Cake Jam and I found these awesome cookie molds for making beautiful chocolate covered Oreos.

The etiquette rule in regards to giving gifts, any gifts, is that once it leaves your hands and becomes the possession of the receiver, you no longer have any control over what becomes of that gift.  I’ve learned over the years not to give certain food gifts to particular people because they never enjoy them.   A dear friend of mine gave me a jar of homemade apple butter a few years ago and while I appreciate the effort and thanked her for it, it is still unopened three years later.   I don’t have the heart to throw it out unused.

 

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

SHOEGAL December 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm

As for throwing away the truffles – not a good idea and wrong. In fact, I have to question opening up the frige in the first place. I think of the refrigerator as a personal thing and you just don’t go in there unless you were given permisson. Also – you can’t throw out someone else’s food in their own house. I wouldn’t somebody walking in my kitchen, opening up my refrigerator and throwing out the food in there – good or not. I think the best idea would be to remind her boyfrined of the truffles shelf life so he could notify his mother that they probably shouldn’t be eaten.

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many bells down December 8, 2011 at 1:23 pm

@Ebbie – “there is no way that we would possibly be interested in consuming food items from the homes of most family members, friends or acquaintances.”

Wait, so you don’t ever have dinner at the homes of your friends and family?

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Elizabeth December 8, 2011 at 5:34 pm

I think you went to a lot of time and trouble with the best of intentions, feeling that the treats would be eaten and enjoyed. BUT, possibly your expectation of this appreciation or enjoyment was too high. Of course the recipient might have re-gifted the treats or thrown them away without your knowledge if food preferences or allergies disallowed their consumption. The recipient is obligated to love the gift but I think there is an obligation to thank the giver and not be blatent about a gift’s rejection.

On a related note, one Christmas my father’s wife gave (amongst other things) myself and my brother’s girlfriend scented candles. “Jen” explained, “EEWW, I hate scented anything – who wants a candle??” My shock immediately set my mouth in motion: ‘OOHH, if you dont’ want it I’d love another one!”

Sadly, Jen regularly speaks before she thinks.

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LilPrettyWonder December 8, 2011 at 9:17 pm

@SHOEGAL I agree that it was not the best thing for the OP to throw out the truffles herself.
As to opening the fridge however, she could have perfectly legitimate reasons for doing so. It would depend on how close she is to her boyfriend’s family. Perhaps they have a relationship where she’s more like family and was helping out in kitchen or even that they’re close enough that she is welcome to get things from the refridgerator when she needs to.
I think I probably would have just left the truffles in there without saying anything, I would be too embarrassed to point out the fact that my gift was lying forgotten. But I agree that the best thing would have been to let the boyfriend know so he could throw them out or let his mother know. Maybe the boyfriend was the one who forgot to relay the message about the shelf like of the truffles to his mother.

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anonymous December 9, 2011 at 11:28 am

I thought it was ‘just me’, but I see others don’t care for made-at-home-treats, either. I will accept them as gifts and either pass them on later or dispose of them, if they look wet or yucky or if a lot of time has passed. I worked in a small office and one woman brought us all as gifts little foil baking pans of some kind of pumpkin bars. Nicely wrapped, I took my pan home and unveiled a brown wet sludgy lumpy mass that shockingly resembled a ‘gift’ a dog would leave on your lawn! (shudder). And I don’t care for those grubby little mini-loaves of banana bread or cranberry bread – don’t care for either, and it’s not like I have a shortage of stuff to eat around the house! Those I bring to a family meal, slice and put on a plate. Thems that want it, have at it. If no one touches them, out they go.

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shelli December 9, 2011 at 2:10 pm

I love truffles but the cookie/goodie madness must STOP! Bah humbug! I love Christmas, and the thought is what counts but the cookie crap has got to go. Here’s why….Warning: This will be a rant of near-epic proportions.

1) The Christmas cookie/food gift has long lost it’s special ingredient. Back in the day it was a serious chore. They made cookies from scratch all by hand. It actually took time, a good cook, a good recipe, a milked cow a piping hot wood burning stove and hand churned butter. Now it’s a cup of sugar, flower, and an egg tossed in our $300 kitchen aid. What is even worse is a person who buys the place and bakes. You know the Pillsbury cookies that you toss on a pan. Seriously? Is that really a heart felt gift or just a way to be cheap?
2) I like MY Grandmothers Christmas Cookies not your Grandmothers cookies!!
3) I went to culinary school…. For baking and pastry arts….I know how to make cookies!!!
4) Is your house clean? No I saw your cat jump on the kitchen counter after it licked it’s butt….Sorry but it’s in the trash!
5) How do you know I like sweets and what if I happen to be allergic or on a diet? Again it’s in the TRASH!
I own a cleaning service I employee mostly single mothers these girls go home with cookies from our clients every day during the holidays and while I appreciate the effort who needs 5 bags of cookies a day? $5 tip would be better! After they have drove to the store wasted gas, got the cookies, turned on the oven and wasted electricity, paid for a cute bag, bow and card they have spent $5 anyway. Not to mention these girls clean the kitchen mess from them making the cookies!

So before you start handing out “Christmas” (Pillsbury) cookies to random people as a gift think about this rant. Would you want cookies? How many cookies/baked goods do you already get? If you are on a budget or love homemade gifts try something new that people are not going to get duplicates of. Never buy premade (bakery/Pillsbury) cookies and give them as a gift. And Ladies you should not give other girls cookies (we all know how to make cookies) you can give them to men but not other girls!

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Natalie December 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm

“And Ladies you should not give other girls cookies (we all know how to make cookies) you can give them to men but not other girls!”

Seriously? Not all women bake, and for that matter, plenty of men do. And just because I bake doesn’t mean I wouldn’t accept cookies from someone else – maybe I don’t have that recipe or haven’t mastered that technique. Maybe it’s just nice to eat something good that someone else made!

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Bint December 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Shelli…less of a rant than a testament of ingratitude, ungraciousness and no class.

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Heather December 9, 2011 at 7:50 pm

@Shelli- for some of us on a limited budget, who are socially obligated to give gifts, but don’t have time to hand knit everyone on our list a beautiful thoughtful cashmere scarf: yes, cookies are a way to be cheap! Just because it’s quick and easy doesn’t mean that it’s not heartfelt, if it’s pillsbury, and some of us still make cookies from scratch. And frankly, the people who care if you toss them or whatever (discreetly, of course!) are in the minority. It’s the thought that counts.

Also, just because someone is a girl doesn’t mean automatically knows how to make cookies, or is good at it. A lot of girls I know are terrible cooks, and making pillsbury cookies is an accomplishment for them. So that’s statement’s kind of unfair.

Remember that food is a traditional gift at Christmastime (like, hundreds and hundreds of years traditional.) Although now I know that if you ever wind up on my list, to give you oranges and nuts instead of cookies.

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Enna December 10, 2011 at 7:43 am

@ OP: chalk this down to experince, they could have been accidentally pushed back to the fridge and blocked from view. You could always trying next year finding out waht they do like as treats.

@ Admin, I do agree that OP should have told BF and his mother about throwig the chocolates away, but OP might not have wanted to embrasses them or seem to be rude. What would be a polite way to reduse embrassesement in this kind of situation?

@ Shelli, I am a woman who does not know how to make cookies. If someone gave them to me as a gift I would enjoy them. I would politey check they were veggie as some things like marshmellows and sweets have geletine in them which I cannot eat as a vegetarian, but it is also common knowlege that I am veggie. In fact as a Diabetic I don’t think many people would want to buy me sweet things like cookies and chocolate as they may be worried about making me ill. I can have some in moderation.

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CSmith December 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm

@Shelli: Here’s the thing about gifts. Even if all girls knew how to make cookies (which is clearly false), a lot of us just don’t want to. Cookies can be a lot of work if you’re tired/busy/stressed, and if someone else takes the time to make them for me, I’m thrilled! Gifts aren’t necessarily about whether or not you’re able to provide it for yourself – I could go buy myself a sweater, but if my mom found one that she thought was just so me, I’d appreciate it anyway because she thought of me!

Also, this germophobia about home kitchens is bizarre to me. Yes, sometimes unsavory things creep onto counters (and hands), but honestly, almost none of it is even going to make a temporary dent in your immune system.

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Margot December 10, 2011 at 10:38 pm

@Shelli: I am an underemployed college student with a sizeable extended family. Frankly, if I didn’t give out food gifts, I wouldn’t be able to give any gifts at all. The humans in my family got roasted candied pecans and almonds, the dogs got homemade dog biscuits, and the cats got little felt catnip pillows from the catnip plant that grew wild in my garden this summer. They all seemed to like them and appreciate the time I took to make things; perhaps if you shifted your focus to the time spent making you a food item, you might appreciate them as gifts more.

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Kat December 11, 2011 at 7:54 pm

3) I went to culinary school…. For baking and pastry arts….I know how to make cookies!!!

Wow, you sound like a snob and seem very ungrateful.

I would personally be delighted with any gift I got, edible or not. If I had fears about whether it was safe to eat, due to having a cat on the counter or something, I would certainly not say anything. And our sanitize-everything culture is actually harming our immune systems because they don’t get a chance to be exercised. Ever heard the old saying “you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die?”

You say “how do you know I don’t have allergies or I’m on a diet?” Well, how do you know when someone’s spent $5 on making a plate of cookies? Maybe hard times have hit this year and the cute bags and bows are leftover from last year and it’s the only thing they can afford to give?

That said, I did once turn down an offer of Christmas cookies, because my dad’s ex-wife made them and I wouldn’t put it past her to put eye drops in them to give us all diarrhea. She’s a passive-aggressive woman like that. So yes, there are certain circumstances under which I would refuse a gift of cookies. But not just because I think my cookies, or my grandmother’s, are so much better than the gifter’s.

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OP December 11, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Hi all, OP here.

Firstly, I should say that I submitted this post last Christmas and had just discovered Ehell – I have since learned and follow the etiquette for gift giving, and will not be making such errors in future.

To clarify, my relationship with my bf and our families is that we are treated like family – help yourself to anything unless you have been told it is off limits but you are expected to help out as well – I often buy food, cook and clean up and there was nothing strange in me opening the fridge. My cooking hygene standards are also high enough for my bf’s family.

The truffles were given to my bf’s mother before Christmas as an ‘extra’ gift in addition to wrapped presents, and I told her that they were handmade and would be good to eat for X days but past that they may be unsafe as they had cream in them. Her response was ‘Alright then’.

About 2 weeks later (past the eat by date) I saw them in the fridge where I had placed them and suggested to my bf that they be thrown out. He agreed and I did so, but did not mention the truffles again to his mother. I apologise for not clarifying this in the original post, and I agree that I should have put a written use by date on the box and let him sort it out.

I now know that once I have given a gift it is none of my business what happens to it, and this year will be sticking to wrapped presents I know she will enjoy, without any extras.

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MellowedOne December 11, 2011 at 11:18 pm

OP…my observation is that your boyfriend quite possibly didn’t tell anyone about them; he merely shoved them in the fridge and forgot about them. Quite easy to do since he was not interested in eating them (they were untouched).

Definitely not proper to pull the items out of the fridge and dispose on your own, but as admin suggested earlier a mention to to the mom about the issue would be in order. And you may very well find she had no idea the delicious treats were lurking in her fridge.

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Gracie C. December 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm

@Rhonda – best story ever! LOL.

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Robert December 14, 2011 at 11:31 am

@Rhonda: I’m in my late twenties and I’m at my aunts with about 20 friends and family for Christmas dinner…

Me: (finishes a chocolate truffle) I can’t believe that mushrooms found by pigs can make chocolate taste SO good!
Everyone: (stunned silence – I mean everyone heard that and stopped talking!)
Uncle: Uhmm, you know chocolate truffles have nothing to do with mushroom truffles, right?
Everyone: (bursts out laughing).

So you’re not the only one. I still avoid cheesecake because in my mind it’s a block of American cheese in a crust (even though I now know it is actually very sweet and nothing like American cheese!).

@shelli: One of my wife’s favorite stories from when we were dating is when she was getting her house ready to put on the market. She was using a sledgehammer to take down old horse hair plaster to be replaced with new wallboard while I was in the kitchen making my annual Christmas cookies.

My only problem with the Christmas cookies I make is that over the past ten years I have had to over triple the number of batches I make. First my MIL/FIL shared some with my wife’s siblings so then they wanted me to send some to them too. Then my friends started sharing them out and I started getting more requests. I mean, it’s nice to be appreciated but it’s starting to feel like a job instead of a joy every year!

Anyway, opinions are like noses I guess…everyone has one. Well, something like that anyway.

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Softly Spoken December 27, 2011 at 7:50 pm

I chuckled to myself when I found this post because I gave my family and neighbors homemade fudge this Christmas. I’d classify myself as an Intermediate level cook – i.e. I can do fudge but probably not truffles. I can follow a recipe, and I can successfully tweak a recipe when I have ideas to improve on it. I had a blast experimenting in the kitchen when I found a fudge recipe I liked, and I ended up making 6 different flavors (wanted to make 8 but I ran out of steam lol). With all the crazy diet restrictions and allergies etc. that people have these days, giving any kind of food as a gift is tricky – I worried about using nuts in one batch but I figured if I gave to anyone with nut allergies they could just regift to someone else they knew would like it.
If they never eat it, regift it, or throw it away I will never know (or care), because they all showed wonderful gratitude when I gave it to them. They all made it clear that they were happy I thought of them. Even if you don’t care for a homemade something that someone gives you, you should appreciate the good intentions and *effort* behind it – it really is the thought that counts and such thoughts deserve to be appreciated…or maybe, if you don’t show enough thoughtful gratitude, you won’t be thought of next time. And someone else will get all the delicious fudge… ;-P

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Jan74 February 3, 2012 at 12:51 pm

I find it funny cause whenever I gift food things, the best thing to me is that if the person doesn’t like it, it is easily “regiftable”. I mean, you can serve it to guests, or take to your office to share if you don’t like it.

I was unaware people were so paranoid about dirty kitchens, though I imagine I’m excluded from such concerns, as most people who know me think of me as an overcleaner who sanitizes everything. Also, I would never assume because you saw someone’s cat jump on the counter once, that they didn’t clean said counter before cooking. My husband’s aunt and uncle are the filthiest people I know, and they have no pets. Yet I doubt they’ve ever wiped the inside of their microwave, or cleaned the inside of their fridge. The person with the pet is likely to be much cleaner.

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erica September 10, 2012 at 11:08 pm

I think shelli was just being tongue in cheek and ventured to the dark side a bit too far.

I can honestly tell you that I have people BEGGING me every november to be added to my “cookie list”. Everyone knows I have “cookie Week” in early Dec. I make lots and lots of cookies. I bake lots and lots of cookies. I decorate lots and lots of cookies. They mostly go to neighbors, friends, teachers (I stopped when I heard teachers throw them away…then had a teacher call me, and ask if I would start again…a teacher who my child didn’t even HAVE..but had gotten a couple cookies from my kids teacher :) the mailman, certain service people and people I come in contact with often. Last year two full batches were bagged up for my teenagers friends…he was mighty popular walking around with a big bag of cookies!.

Cookie baking is a dying art.
Yes…you can cheat with the help of duncan hines/pillsbury But even that takes time!
when I worked full time I didn’t do cookie week. I didn’t have the time and totally appreciated it when someone gave me christmas cookies as a gift!

Decorating them is a treat…it’s making memories for my kids and their friends.
WORTH IT!
Worth the expense, worth the time, worth every moment of it.
And yes, I bake an average of 10 different kinds every year. Sugar I do 4 batches at least. That’s a lot of cookies.
If people don’t show appreciation for your cookies, shelli….you are probably not as good of a pastry chef as you believe.
I’m not a chef. I have zero training in that area…and mine fly out of here like there’s no tomorrow.

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