Like it or not, the giving season is upon us. Today marks the start of Shop Local First week in San Francisco (and elsewhere), which culminates with a 40-vendor sale Saturday in Union Square on Saturday. The Mission Merchants Association is offering coupons, along with a downloadable retail map. If you're searching for something special, the San Francisco Locally Owned Merchants Alliance's website has a search engine.
Shop Local First is sponsored by San Francisco's Small Business Commission and is being facilitated nationally by the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE); Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, and some Michigan counties are all participating. Regardless of whether your city is one of them, we encourage you to keep your dollars in your hometown wherever you live. (Here's a good list of reasons why you should.) Side bonus: hitting local clothing boutiques and soapmakers is to the mall as shopping at farmers markets is to Safeway — more fun, less stressful, and way cooler stuff.
Speaking of cool stuff, Dairy Queen's family has long ago given up pretending we can pick out the perfect presents for each other without a few bald-faced "hints." In the process of sending out my own suggestions, which aside from new socks to replace my holey ones are almost entirely food- and cooking-related, I realized that other Ethicureans might covet some of the same things I do. So we've put our heads together for the debut installment of the Ethicurean Gift Guide, consisting of things we own and use all the time in our pursuit of SOLE food, as well as those we're saving up for.
It's by no means comprehensive, so feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section. And yes, we know — Internet shopping isn't local. Just try to plant your dollars in as many good places as possible.
Presents for SOLE foodies
The Hook'n'Go: The Potato Non Grata isn't always willing to play pack mule for the Dairy Queen's farmers market excursions, and now he doesn't have to. This well-designed cart can be festooned with multiple heavy shopping bags (photo from its maiden voyage) and easily pulled through crowded places. Best yet, you can let go of it to dig out your cash, and it won't tip over; just be sure you unload it back to front for stability. Folds small. $39
Local jams and honeys: Almost every farmers market has locally made jams and honeys for sale, and they make great gifts. In the Bay Area, look for Frog Hollow's tart-yet-sweet Meyer lemon marmalade and Marshall Farm's Marin wildflower honey, which is a killer combination of lavender, lemon verbena, and roses as complex as a fine wine. (Both Frog Hollow and Marshall Farm also ship their wares.) $5-$10
Bamboo cutting boards: Man of La Muncha and Butter Bitch bought a couple of these cutting boards about six months ago and haven't been disappointed. They are sturdy, harder than traditional wood cutting boards (resulting in fewer scratches), and best of all are made of bamboo, which is fast-growing and highly sustainable. $20-$50
The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook: Grass-fed meat cooks faster and differently than other meat. This cookbook not only explains why, it has great tips for getting the most of your meat and lots of recipes from farms. $23
Ceramic butter keeper: DQ loves to keep butter on the counter for cooking and spreading on toast, but sometimes it's just a little too melt-y that way. (It doesn't help that her counter is in the sun for most of the day.) This ingenius butter keeper has been keeping her butter fresh and at just the right spreading consistency for weeks or more, just by changing cold water very few days. $10
Food dehydrator: Even in the Bay Area, trying to eat with the seasons would be easier if Dairy Queen had bought this Cadillac of food-driers at the end of the summer. There are many, many cheaper models out there for the budget-conscious, but according to the National Center for Home Preservation website, horizontal dehydrators are superior. And she's a sucker for stainless steel. $219.
Biodegradable dinnerware and utensils: The next time you're throwing a party and don't want to clean up, consider springing for these plates, bowls and cups made of compostable sugar cane fiber (bagasse) — a byproduct of the sugar refining process usually disposed of by burning. (This store, Branch Home, is the brainchild of Ethicurean pal Paul Donaldson, and has really beautiful stuff, all made of sustainable ingredients.) $8 for 50 nine-inch plates.
Bamboo serving utensils: Organically grown bamboo, very stylish; also from Branch Home. $20 for set of six.
Countertop composter: Don't throw those egg shells and carrot peels away — drop them in one of these for later disposal in your compost heap. Corn Maven likes the white ceramic version ($24), while Dairy Queen is eyeing the shiny stainless steel ($45). Both have carbon filters in the lid to prevent odor.
Spinning composter: Corn Maven loves to dump kitchen and yard scraps into this compact, non-stinky composter and pull out powdered nourishment for her edible garden. $179
Cuisinart Slow Cooker: Grass-fed meat is expensive, and sometimes our ethics are higher than our disposable incomes, which is when we go for tougher cuts best suited to long, slow cooking. There are cheaper "crockpots" out there, but this one was top-rated in Slate's slow-cookoff, has a retractable cord, a timer, and a purty counter-to-table stainless-steel insert. (Can anyone recommend a good, versatile crockpot cookbook?) $99
Reusable, trackable gift bags: The Wrapsacks are cute ways to wrap your gifts that don't kill any trees (and take a lot less time). Best of all, they come with tracking numbers; register them online, and then watch as they (hopefully) travel around the country and the world. Five for $20.
The Good Good Pig — The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood: Seen "Babe" more than once? This book is for you. A terrific, informative, and funny tale of a 750-pound porcine pet names Christopher Hogworth, which Dairy Queen plans to buy several copies of for pig-loving friends.
Meals to Come — A History of the Future of Food: In this university press doorstop, Warren Belasco takes a sweeping look at a little-explored yet timely topic — humanity's deep-rooted anxiety about the future of food. People have expressed their worries about the future of the food supply in myriad ways, and here Belasco explores a fascinating array of material ranging over 200 years, from futuristic novels and films to world's fairs, Disney amusement parks, supermarket and restaurant architecture, organic farmers' markets, debates over genetic engineering, and more. $55
Global warming mug: Pour in a hot liquid and watch all the continents shrink! The perfect gag gift for your climate-change "skeptic" in your family. $12.
Organic flowers: Whether giving a holiday wreath or sending flowers to a lover, Organic Bouquet gives you the option to buy organically grown flowers. Additionally, you can support Amnesty International in their fight for human rights worldwide, through a partnership between Organic Bouquet and Amnesty. Holiday wreaths are $59.95. The cost varies for other bouquets.
Livestock: Give a gift that keeps on giving — buy a cow, pig, sheep, water buffalo, or other animal whose milk or fur/wool will help feed a needy family through Heifer International, a truly cool nonprofit foundation. $500 for a whole cow, $50 for a share of one; smaller donations for rabbits, etc.