A few days before Christmas I made the rounds with this year’s gift bags (despite the fact that it was 10 below 0 out). What I love about homemade presents is the sheer bounty you can give to people without feeling like you’ve broken the bank. This year everyone got a half-pint jar of pate, one of artichoke spread, a jam or two, and I made a few boozy little fruitcakes. I also tucked a box of crackers in the bag. All in all, a festive and fun little bundle.
But the really fun part was what came back my way. I stopped by Scott and Jennifer’s and Scott gave me a jar of home-canned elk. He says it’s great with a little sour cream as a stroganoff, so there’s some cold winter evening when I’ve been working too hard all set. Jamie and Steve left a similar bag on my doorknob Christmas day with apple chutney, orange marmalade and some grape jelly from Jamie’s grapevines in the backyard. My Milk Lady left me a jar of her homemade feta cheese marinated in olive oil with sundried tomatoes and olives (had some on salad yesterday for lunch — yum). I gave Steve, my neighbor down the street who sno-blows my front sidewalk for me a jar of sour cherries from the trees in the empty lot across the street from his house, and he and his wife showed up the night after Christmas with a plate full of homemade candy — fudge and peanut brittle and some other stuff that looks really great.
I think this is what I love most about giving people stuff you’ve made — the way it ripples out. Now here in Montana there’s a general interest in making things for yourself — legacy of all those years when we were so far away from everyone — so perhaps the people I know are a little more likely to return a gift of pate with one of chutney — but what fun. It’s like a pot luck. You get to see what everyone else has made and you get to give everyone a little present that shows how much you value their friendship without having to buy stuff (well, aside from Ball jars — I think I’m single-handedly keeping them in business). And you get to taste everyone else’s food. A good thing all the way around.