“Gourmet Gifts” – a DIY guide to gift making


“Gourmet Gifts to Make Yourself & Wrap With Style” by Dinah Corley, photographs by Alison Shaw, Harvard Common Press, 2011. 306 pp., $19.95.

This is a cookbook about sharing your cooking abilities with the ones you love, near or far. It’s about connection and caring for others, and preparing for the holidays.

Dinah Corley, a Virginia native and cooking-school teacher, and Alison Shaw, a Martha’s Vineyard resident and photographer, unite in making a cook- and craft-book for all different skill levels.

Generosity and creativity are central to this cookbook. Not only is it about making delicious gifts, it is also about presenting those gifts beautifully. About cooking as gifts, Ms. Corley is spot-on. She likes the idea of savoring a food gift versus saving a gift with sentimental value. And, as Ms. Corley claims, it can be cheaper to make your own gifts.

Ms. Corley says creativity is what the gift-giver should embrace while wrapping food as gifts. She likes the idea of not having to return and clean the giver’s dishes, but giving a gift on a paper plate will not do. She says careful and imaginative packaging means pleasure to the recipient and reflects the gift-giver’s affection. This cookbook packs a ton of good ideas in its 306 pages.

Maya Sharp and I tried the black bean and fresh corn salsa. We found the recipes easy to follow, the prep time accurately listed, and the cost of the recipe correct. It ended up being delicious, though it was not like any salsa we had before. There were no tomatoes, which is what it needed to be considered salsa.

The book had some very interesting and helpful tips for gift-giving. Because this book is focused on giving, and some friends might not live close, there were useful suggestions with each recipe about shipping, freezing, doubling, price range, shelf life, and the recipe’s yield. Ms. Corley described convenient ways to decide what to make for whom. Helping one choose between cheap and easy to ship, making big batches, or using food to comfort another, this book has gifts for any gift-giving situation.

The effort required to make such gifts is clear. Each recipe also has a section describing how to wrap the recipes as gifts, and if shipping is possible for the recipe. Then recommendations are incorporated into the wrapping directions. The “Wrap It Up” section features a suggested list of supplies and directions that are detailed and creative.

Ms. Corley and Ms. Shaw are a great team, and this fun cookbook. It’s certain that giving food can be fun and a route to creativity. It’s a way to connect with others, by cooking together, and it inspires one to spend more time in the kitchen before the holiday season.

Meet the author and illustrator, 7:30 pm, Friday, Oct. 7, Bunch of Grapes Bookstore, Vineyard Haven. 508-693-2291; bunchofgrapes.com.