'Don’t be hung up on gourmet': Adam Liaw's guide to giving food for Christmas

Adam Liaw
·4-min read

Christmas is all about food. Many of us have probably started thinking of our Christmas menus already, or at least started to dream of chewy, cream-topped pavlovas.

But food isn’t just for putting on the Christmas lunch table – it can go under the tree too. Here’s a few pointers on giving an edible gift this Christmas.

Make something

Homemade gifts of food are both economical and easy. My cousin makes a big batch of marmalade each year as gifts and it’s something we all look forward to receiving. It works for us, and it works for her too. An afternoon of making and jarring jam is a far more efficient way of giving a thoughtful and heartfelt present than trying to tackle a Christmas-rushed shopping mall in December.

Related: The spirits of Christmas: drinkable homemade gifts – recipes

If you’re trying to work out what to make, of course you can go with seasonal Christmas puddings and mince pies, but I’ve given and received homemade biscuits, soy sauce, chilli sauce, home-brewed beer, rice wine and bottarga. Fruit cordials and shrubs are great, too. Put together your own spice blend, or mix your own muesli. There’s no end to the possibilities.

Or don’t …

Of course, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed at the idea of people eating food that you’ve made – or perhaps fearful that you might poison them – there’s no need to give yourself extra stress at Christmas time.

There are plenty of incredible food business around Australia that could help you out, and you’d likely be helping them out as well. Take a look at my Christmas gift guide for a few suggestions, or go your own way.

Don’t be hung up on ‘gourmet’

Food can be good at any price point, and when something is considered “artisan” or “gourmet” that price point is likely to be higher than is necessary.

I take my food gifting cues from the legion of aunties and uncles who would show up at my grandma’s house throughout my childhood with gifts in the form of bags of lemons from their backyard trees, a pineapple that was cheap and “very sweet” in the markets that morning, or a box of biscuits from a carton they’d bought in bulk.

Related: Thomasina Miers' Christmas gift recipe for dark chocolate granola | The simple fix

Future food

If you think picking out some food to gift might not be your thing, consider a trip to the garden shop instead. A few growing herbs, a chilli plant or a potted vegetable all make excellent gifts, and I can all but guarantee you’ll get a picture excitedly sent to your phone a few months later when you gift quite literally bears fruit.

It doesn’t have to be nonperishable

Most of us have refrigerators, and this year in particular many of us will be Christmassing close to home. A box of vegetables, a bag of fruit or a meat tray make a spectacular gift, and you can assemble your own (which you should) to suit your budget.

Each year my friends and I do a big family Christmas picnic with a Kris Kringle, and quite often I’ll make my gift a box of cherries. It’s always a hit.

Check for allergies and exclusions

The thing about giving is that it actually does require you to know a little bit about the person you’re giving to, and food can be pretty personal. Act like a waiter and just ask if there’s anything they or the people in their household don’t eat or drink. That will avoid the awkwardness of giving homemade peanut butter to someone whose child has a severe peanut allergy.

And one last thing, a tip for those of us lucky enough to receive some kind of food gift:

Related: The good gift guide: 100 Christmas gift ideas to lift up, give back and delight

Eat it

With the possible exception of fancy booze, the best time to actually eat (or drink) food products you’re given is as close as possible to when you receive them. It’s a sad sight when a bottle of nice olive oil sits on a shelf, saved for a special occasion that will likely never arrive while the oil itself takes on the plasticine aroma of rancidity. Or delicious biscuits that crumble and stale for no real reason other than a vague and very incorrect belief that you should be eating them later.

There’s nothing wrong with asking the person who gave you the gift if they mind you cracking it open straight away and even sharing it with them. Treat it like a bottle of wine brought to a dinner party. After all, food is something most of us eat three times a day. It’s not just for special occasions.