Arbitrary List

Arbitrary: The 2018 Not Quite Annual NEAROF! Gift Guide

Zeroll ice cream scoop
The parlour-grade ice-cream scoop from Zeroll will change the life of any ice-cream lover. Just don’t put it in the dishwasher!

We’ve admittedly missed a few years, but we’re back with some more holiday shopping suggestions for the person who eats food on your list. (Hint: Everyone eats food.)

(Note: There are a few items with affiliate links in here in case you feel like supporting the site while doing your shopping. It won’t cost you anything, and it will help cover hosting costs for the coming year. Thanks!)


There are lots of reasons why chocolate is a great gift. For one, you’re giving a consumable gift, so no worries of contributing to clutter. The other big benefit is just how broad an idea chocolate can be.

For casual acquaintances or an office party, by all means pick up a cheap-ish box of chocolates (or chocolate covered blueberries, espresso beans, Lindor balls, etc.).

For closer friends or relatives, a nicer box of chocolates is an easy gift.

For your foodie friends, some single-origin bars from a good chocolate maker should be well received. For your special someone, a box of their favourite chocolates or a special selection of premium, beautifully packaged chocolates is an indulgence they may not normally get for themselves but will appreciate if given. In Edmonton, I love the wares of Sweet Lollapalooza. And you can’t go wrong with either Bernard Callebaut (aka CoCoCo) or Purdys.

Legit Ice-Cream Scoop

I am so sick of shitty ice-cream scoops. Some bend under only the slightest pressure (oh, hey there Henckels), and some have fragile little mechanisms that are supposed to sweep over the surface of the scoop with the click of a button, kicking out perfect balls every time. But you know what pros use at real ice-cream shops? One of the amazing scoops from Zeroll.

If you’ve ever wondered how ice cream shops get those perfect ball-shaped scoops, it’s because they use one of these. If you’ve got an ice-cream diehard on your list, one of these will bring them joy for years to come. But when it says not to use it in the dishwasher, it means it. Trust me.

Edmonton Cooks Cookbook

While I’m partial to the Edmonton Cooks version of this popular series of city cookbooks, there are other cookbooks for other Canadian cities that may be of more interest, depending on where you’re visiting us from. The books wrangle recipes out of the chefs at popular restaurants in each city, and make it easy for you to reproduce some of their signature dishes at home.

If you opt for the Edmonton Cooks book, know that it contains the recipe for the Sugarbowl’s famous cinnamon buns. I’ve made it multiple times, and the recipe works like a charm. If you’re new to a city, it’s a great introduction to your adopted community’s culinary scene.

Food books!
These food-related books are great! 

Things for Kids!

One of the coolest things about being a parent is introducing your kid to your passions. For me, one of those things is food and cooking. There are lots of ways to get your kiddo engaged in food and cooking, and I’ve had some success with these ideas in the past.

There are plenty of cookbooks for kids out there, with simple (yet yummy) recipes and easy instructions. Specialty kitchen shops also carry things like special knives for kids, as well as small chef’s hats and pint-sized aprons. If you have a curious kid who always wants to help in the kitchen, nurture that love by helping them feel like they belong. Then make sure you let them help.

Wicked Knife

If you’re sure the person you’re shopping for wouldn’t misinterpret it, why not get them a wicked knife? I can honestly say that when I got a really good new knife a year and a half ago, it changed the way I cooked. Food prep tasks that were previously a chore became far easier, which made me that much more willing to cook when I didn’t have a pile of time. I used to hate having to trim and cut chicken breasts, but now that I have a razor-sharp Japanese knife, it’s almost effortless work.

I bought my Tadafusa Hocho Kobo Gyuto chef’s knife at Knifewear in Edmonton, and I can cheerfully recommend both the knife and the shop. Just be warned that you’ll have to get used to using a knife that’s this sharp. If you’ve only experienced typical duller knives, you’ll quickly learn how easy it is to accidentally cut yourself with the thing. No more trimming veggies in your hand unless you fancy a trip to the hospital.

Tadafusa Japanese chef's knife
That’s my wicked Tadafusa Japanese chef’s knife. Take that, peppers!

Food Books

Cookbooks aren’t the only food books out there. I’m drawn to books about food and cooking, or that feature those topics as central themes because, well, my life also features food and cooking as a central theme. I’ve encountered a few interesting titles lately that might strike your fancy, or the fancy of the literate eater on your list.

Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain: Lovers of food and writing lost a major voice this year in Anthony Bourdain. While I’d seen his work on TV and had read a number of his articles in the media, I’d never read his breakout book, Kitchen Confidential. And it’s a wonderful read. It’s propulsively readable, and you feel like you really know the guy by the time you hit the last page. It’s easy to see how this launched his career outside of the kitchen. Reading it in the context of the #metoo era is odd, as the rampant sexism of the restaurant world is on full display. But it’s absolutely worth reading.

Sourdough, by Robin Sloan: I technically read this book last year, but I enjoyed it enough that I still think about it from time to time. There’s been a recent surge in interest in sourdough, especially among tech industry types, and this novel from Robin Sloan captures the curious intersection of worlds. Sourdough is about as old-school and analogue as it gets, so what happens when a computer science type gets her hands on a starter that demands to be made? The perfect read for someone who is both a tech obsessive and a baker of bread.

Snacks: A Canadian Food History, by Janis Thiessen: Imagine a book about Canadian snack foods, but written from a historical perspective, with thoroughly researched background information on some of your favourite treats. Topics include Old Dutch Chips, Covered Bridge Chips, Hardbite Chips, Hawkins Cheezies, and chocolate makers (Moirs, Ganong and Paulin’s) that are Canadian staples of past and present. Just be warned that it’s a heavier read than you might expect, including large sections on labour relations at the businesses. But if you’re not afraid to delve into an academic analysis of Canadian snacks (extra cred for being published by the University of Manitoba Press), this book is for you.

Bread, Wine, Chocolate – The Slow Loss of Foods We Love, by Simran Sethi: I’m not quite done this one yet, but it’s still worth a recommendation. The book – about wine, coffee, chocolate, beer and bread – is a neat combination of three things: a look at how these wonderful foods are made, an examination of issues of biodiversity for each food and a brief guide on how to taste and appreciate them. The book is meticulously researched, including information gleaned from trips around the planet to meet the people in the growing regions and find out what makes each food so special. It’s far easier reading than Snacks (above), and way less academic while still relying on research to tell the story.

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