This was originally posted on The Famished Freelancer on December 5, 2013.
Which is a nice way of saying, mostly bad results.
Every year, I toil away making a double or triple batch of Alton Brown's Free Range Fruitcake so I'll have enough for everyone. In this case, everyone is my mom, my husband's uncle...aaaand at this point, that's really about it. I can't eat fruitcake anymore because it's chock full of my migraine triggers. My husband eats it, but not as much as he did when I could still have some.
And before you start with the fruitcake jokes, this one is made with real dried fruit, not the radiation-colored jellied fake stuff. It also involves a lot of rum and brandy, so what's not to love?
Except for the brandy, apparently, because one of my aunts declined to try my fruitcake one year because she doesn't like brandy. I don't quite understand that since I think brandy is yummy, but I don't care for bourbon, so OK, fine.
But the fruitcake is the only food gift that has ever gone over well with my family. (Friends might be more amenable to food gifts, but who can afford to exchange gifts with their friends anymore? I don't think I've done it since the early 90s.) Anyway, a few years ago, I gave away a bunch of Alton Brown's hot cocoa mix to some of my relatives. You know who drank it? No one.
My brother was afraid to because I'd included a dash of cayenne pepper in his to make Mexican Hot Chocolate and that scared him. He lives in Austin, TX, home of Tex Mex cuisine and he's a Burning Man guy, yet he feared the Mexican hot cocoa. As my friend Judy likes to say, people are interesting.
My mom and aunt (not the one who dislikes brandy) didn't have any because…I'm not entirely sure why. This is the same Mom who ate a bite of mud pie because I made sad eyes at her and said, "But I made it for you." But hot cocoa mix? Feh!
But hot chocolate is supposed to be comforting and the familiarity is part of that. So even though the mix I made was richer and tastier than Swiss Miss, that's probably what they reached for when they were in a cocoa mood.
Food is such a personal (and sometimes fraught) thing that giving it as a gift is a risk. People have allergies and sensitivities. People are finicky. People distrust their ability to prepare anything that isn't pre-measured.
It takes way too much effort to make a food gift that's just going to be wasted. So I just can't bring myself to make them anymore.
What's your experience with giving and receiving homemade food gifts?