This time last year, I gave you a few suggestions to fill a paddler’s Christmas stocking with food and paddling-related goodies. This year I’ve decided to offer you a few more tips since so many people feel helpless when it comes to new gift ideas for all types of budgets.
To select interesting gift ideas for your loved ones I checked food trends, especially those that could adapt to a canoeist or a kayaker’s lifestyle. Let’s put it this way: although slow cookers are still the flavor of the month and braised meats are also very appealing, I would not call that a trend that’s suitable for our monthly theme of kayak and canoe cooking… So let’s be more realistic…
There’s no question that world cuisine is still very much an inspiration for professional chefs as well as home cooks. That’s one theme that I will explore with you to provide with a simple gift solution. Another trend is toward niche items: chocolate, tea and coffees are probably the most popular of all, along with spices and fancy jams or jellies. A third trend is sustainable, vegetarian cuisine. We’ve got good options there too.
Let’s start with bigger ticket items.
The starter box for paddlers
Last year my best friend Jean-Luc finally got into the sport with great enthusiasm, thanks to the excellent sea kayak and kayak classes that his wife Linda offered him for his 50th birthday. Jean-Luc being a top professional chef, we decided to offer him a starter kitchen box that was very similar to the one my mom gave me when I left home for college, light years ago. Not only did he totally fall for it, but he was astonished to realize how interesting and diversified these specialized cooking tools for campers can be. So, here is what you could place in that starter box.
- Chose a nice table cloth with colored patterns. This will be the base of your starter box.
- Pick two cute wash cloths. In the first one, wrap chopsticks, a set of cutlery for two, one good cutting knife, a peeler, a small grater, a can opener, one corkscrew and a set of foldable cooking tools. In the second one, place one cutting board, waterproof matches or a lighter, biodegradable dish soap with sponges and nylon cloths designed to clean pots, a mini spice and herb rack, salt and pepper shakers, Ziploc bags and garbage bags. A few plastic containers are also handy.
- Get a set of three collapsible bowls of different sizes, add two plates, two coffee mugs and two pretty unbreakable glasses. Place this artfully in the middle of the table cloth. You can add two placemats, napkins and two stainless steel wine glasses.
- If you really plan a big surprise, then add a good coffee pot and a set of two good quality pots and a pan. This gift set can be completed with a small two-burner small stove or two individual burners. Don’t forget the right gas...
A romance for two…
Have you ever considered that a fondue pot can be a very useful and romantic gift for a paddler, as long as it doesn’t come with an electric cord? Let’s say you leave on a four day trip and bring your fondue set along. The first night, you can eat a nice seafood fondue with scallops and shrimps that’s been kept at the right temperature in your cooler all day with the help of icepaks. The second supper could easily be a lovely Chinese fondue with frozen beef that would have been slowly thawing with proper packing techniques and also the help of icepaks. The third night, the fondue pot could also be helpful to make a delicious cheese fondue with raw vegetables and bread sticks. And the fourth night, a chocolate fondue with cookies and fresh fruit would make a perfect dessert. You stay for one extra night at camp? Then, why don’t you make a vegetable soup in the same pot? Actually, that fondue set is all you’d need for that trip. That’s why I would definitely consider a good fondue set for a paddler who likes to spend some time around the camp table at night. And if that person is romantic, don’t forget a few small lanterns with candles. Fondue sauces are also a nice addition as a gourmet gift and they travel well if you buy them in small containers.
For the expedition paddler
One tool that I would love to receive as a paddler is a good dehydrator. It allows anyone who likes to travel on the water for multi-day trips to add some versatility to his/her regimen. And what a pleasure to take advantage of the bounty of the season for drying ripe cherries, plump apricots, exquisite peaches or raspberries and to enjoy them for the year to come! Making meat jerky, sausage, spaghetti sauce that can travel for months is also a breeze with such a tool. You can expect to pay between 100 and 250 dollars for an efficient machine. My favorite models have multiple trays and a good ventilator to speed up the drying process. They don’t make much noise either...
You are on a tighter budget or wish to give a cute, inexpensive gourmet gift to a friend who is a paddler? Why not opt for an exotic cooking kit? Here are a few suggestions.
- Asian noodles: in a large unbreakable bowl, place a package of rice noodles, dry ginger, a small bottle of sesame oil, soy sauce, vacuum packed tofu and miso broth. Complete with chopsticks.
- Indian curry: in a small frying pan, place a box of basmati rice, coconut milk, tumeric powder, cumin powder, coriander seeds, crushed chilli peppers, a head of garlic, dry currents and almonds. Complete with some pappadums, those crisp crepes made with lentil flour that are often serve at the beginning of the meal.
- French delight: in a fancy table cloth, arrange a collapsible bottle of wine, two stainless steel wine glasses, unsalted crackers, brie cheese in a metal box, meat terrine in a glass pot and canned smoked oysters. Complete with black chocolate truffles.
The best gifts come in small packages
Another interesting way to treat a gourmand paddler is to go with an assortment of fancy teas from the best regions of the world made according to different traditions (Japanese, Chinese, Russian, etc.). Complete with two unbreakable mugs that you fill with cookies wrapped in transparent paper.
The same concept may apply for a coffee or chocolate lover. Bear in mind that you want the person to discover unusual flavors and aromas. Go for audacity; it’s a gift, after all!
Finally, you can create a nice gourmet present for the health conscious-vegetarian paddler by picking organic juices and soy milk in vacuum packed containers, special jams made without sugar, vegetable broth cubes, sustainable organic coffee and chocolate, soy proteins laced with a ribbon and an assortment of fresh nuts and dry quick cooking beans and cereals.