Every year around late November or early December I get requests from my extended family for a list of possible seasonal gift items for me. This isn’t unusual, nor is the fact that it is prompted by the fact that I am apparently hard to buy for. This year I actually made a list, but it turned into more of a blog post than a practical guide to navigating the shopping-centric part of the holiday season on my behalf.
I’ve posted the email I sent out pretty much verbatim aside from some formatting changes. To put the list in context, I’ve recently moved back to Canada from England, and almost single-handedly moved all of our stored belongings into our new place while my significant other was under the weather. This, of course, followed moves first to Japan in 2003, then back to Canada in 2005, then to England in 2005. There was also a move within England, but that’s another story. Needless to say I am not terribly interested in accumulating stuff.
Here’s what I wrote to the people who wanted a list:
===== GIFT LIST MESSAGE BEGINS =====
There’s nothing that I really need that I’m unlikely to buy for myself. Having said that, there are a few things that I’ve put off buying for the sake of those who like to give me stuff. Does this mean I’m off the hook for giving gifts, having gone to the trouble of “giving” people a list of things to give me? I dunno, but somewhere an academic in Europe is having having an ecstatic moment just thinking about the fractal loops of self-referentiality in my previous sentence. *Cough* Sorry about that digression.
As you read—if you indeed get through this entire document—keep in mind that this is less an xmas wish list than it is a blog post making fun of myself and xmas wish lists. But it’s what you’ll have to work with this year. To save you some reading time I’ll tell you straight up: Aside from the very first item, there’s nothing I particularly want. And aside from the second item, there’s nothing I particularly need. Your choice: four hundred bucks for something I want but don’t particularly need, or under thirty for something I need but won’t be especially excited to acquire. It’s the quintessential Canadian question: do you want ostentatious gestures a la Catholicism, or the harsh practicality of Protestantism? The other stuff on the list is more or less random noise written in the order I thought of it. Actually, there are a few things near the bottom of this list that are pretty Zen: I kind of want them but don’t want to work directly to get them, and many are close to unachievable without a lot of dedicated effort. Take that, Eurocentric religious metaphors!
Enough preamble. Here’s the list.
Expensive Kitchen Equipment:
Kitchenaid Stand Mixer $399.99 at Costco
I miss the Kenwood Chef mixer I got for £10 at the recycling centre in Totnes. If I were to replace it, this is the least expensive model I would choose. I know that “some people” are against big box stores like Costco, but this specific model has all of the same features of equivalent machines sold by Sears and The Bay and other stores for about $599.99. I’ve spent about 8 hours online researching stand mixers, to the point that I know that the Costco model is exclusive to Costco and can’t be bought anywhere else. This machine is a bit of a luxury for me, but I’d like to get back to baking bread every 2-3 days and making pizza from scratch once or twice a week. I’m sure Jarrod would appreciate it, too.
Costco.ca item: # 475001. I want the silver one, NOT red or black. Nor white. The website says that it might be in stock in their stores, for “cash-and-carry” prices, whatever that means. Hopefully “cash-and-carry” means “for less money.”
And if anyone wants to really splurge, I’d also like the accessory pack (grinder, shredder, pasta extruder) for an additional $139.99:
I don’t know if it’s available in-store.
If anyone is seriously considering any of the above, I’d be happy to accept donations towards the EMF (Ed’s Mixer Fund). After all my research I’ve pretty well decided to buy one even though it’s about 20 times more expensive than the one it’s going to replace.
I also want a good heavy-duty blender and food processor, but…
- I haven’t done the research to be able to say which exact models I want.
- I’m really fussy
- I want a stand mixer more than I want a blender or a food processor. (My Japanese knives are good for cutting, not kneading)
Important: I will not settle for a lesser Kitchenaid machine such as any of their basic or artisan models. I also refuse to entertain thoughts of a lower-end stand mixer with twin beaters. I’d take one of the Kitchenaid Pro models, though. After sufficient research. Or a Hobart N-50—a bargain at only US$58/kilo. (Link for those with weaker-than-average google-fu: http://www.ckitchen.com/Hobart_Mixers.asp) And if you can afford to gift someone with the latter, please also get me the second-last item on this list, right above “satchel.” And the 4th item in Other, part 2. And a villa in southern France.
Somewhat Affordable Stuff:
Here are two items that are more affordable, but completely lacking sex appeal:
Truing Stone for Water Stones $26.50 at Lee Valley Tools
This will help me keep my Japanese knives properly sharpened as my stones are a bit bowed from my incompetence. This is more of a utility thing than an object of desire. I don’t really enjoy sharpening my knives.
Stainless-Steel Rasp and Zester Holder $19.95 at Lee Valley Tools
I don’t really need this as I seldom zest lemons, but it might be useful for grating ginger If my grater from the dollar store doesn’t work out..
Other, Part 1: mostly things to avoid
I thought of asking for gift certificates for clothing, but there aren’t any stores I can think of that I’d want to be committed to shopping at. The only place I would’ve suggested is Mark’s Work Wearhouse but I got a turtleneck there last week and the size small (limited selection in this size throughout the store) will need to be repeatedly boiled in order to shrink it to a size that doesn’t look ridiculously baggy on me. Plus see note 2 at the end of the Stand mixer category above.
Why would I need books? We have a good public library and the internet. Together, even. After a year without a broadband connection I have a lot of catching up to do. And we’ll be moving. Books are heavy. To my mind, a couple of tonnes of rock that have been super-heated and reduced to a fancy 30-pound chunk of bolted-together metal, said metal then repeatedly used to churn out baked goods is greatly preferable to bunch of trees that have been ground up, strained, pressed, cut up, and then decorated with someone’s special petrochemically-suspended mud recipe. Breaking the prohibition against books will be frowned on slightly less if there is a new novel out by Neil Gaiman or William Gibson (the novelist not the playwright or the martyr. In paperback. I started typing Douglas Adams’ name as well, but he’s dead. Still, despite his being haven’t-died-of-a-heart-attack-while-exercising-to-stay-fit-for-a-longer-life-challenged, I wouldn’t say no to a couple of previously-unpublished Douglas Adams novels if they were to surface. As long as they were in paperback. As for the two living authors on my list—and here I use the term “living” loosely—Gibson’s next book isn’t due out—in hardcover—until August 7, 2007 and Neil Gaiman doesn’t have any new novels scheduled to come out any time soon.
I have enough socks already. Please don’t buy me any as I will likely just give them to Jarrod. His feet are bigger than mine. Repeat the mantra: Ed has enough socks. A famous man once said that 640k of socks should be enough for anyone. Or something like that. In any case, a gift of socks to Ed is a regift of socks to Jarrod. Every time you buy an unsolicited pair of socks for Ed, a kitten dies. Or something like that. The socks from Australia, while appreciated, have yet to be removed from their packaging, let alone washed or worn. The tweety-bird socks with the non-skid rubber are nowhere to be found, possibly lost at sea. Savoury edible items such as dried squid strips or Marks and Spencer Sea Salt & Balsamic Vinegar Handcooked Crisps make better stocking stuffers than socks. Socks—or stockings—should be a container, not a filler. Furthermore, socks should be neither savoury nor edible even if they occasionally smell like dried squid. If you’re not sure about braving the savoury snacks aisle at your local Asian market I’ll consider Pocari Sweat (liquid or solid/crystalline) or ichigo-flavoured Pocky, both of which sound like they shouldn’t be placed near—much less in—a sock. Kasugai muscat gummies have been known to pass muster.
Don’t bother. See the extended vitriol directed toward gift socks (just the vitriol, not the preamble), and complaints about Mark’s Work Wearhouse sizing in the Gift Certificates commentary. Don’t forget point 2 on fussiness at the end of the Stand Mixer section.
Computer/Photo/Electronic Geek Toys
I will save you the pain of having to read through a long list of things that I may need in the future but don’t want at the moment, and the rationale behind such a lack of desire. Life is too short, and you would have no way of retrieving those lost hours.
Other, part 2: stuff that I feel zen-like about having. That is, I’d like them, but it’s unlikely to happen soon
- Shiso-infused whole umeboshi. The purple Japanese salt-pickled plums.
- For that matter, if anyone can get me umeboshi, I’ll take a couple of packs of yukari gohan mix, ditto on some aonori, as well as a bottle or two of yakisoba sauce and okonomiyaki sauce while you’re at it. All of these need to be sourced by someone on the ground in any of (more or less from east to west) Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, or Vancouver. Or Japan, if you want pay more than the cost-of-goods to send them here by Dec 25.
- Something I don’t already have from Archie Mcphee, but no meat items please. Must play well with my existing curio collection and decor: http://mcphee.com/
Note that the curio collection is in storage in various boxes so trying to figure out what will coordinate, or asking me for useful advice about such is not impossible, but very unlikely. It’d be about as productive as going to Congo to ask a tribesman to demonstrate—Japanese-style—the sound of one hand clapping. For an ethnomusicological field recording. As I said, impossible? No. Misguided and unlikely to happen? Very.
- A couple of pounds of fresh o-toro. I’d even settle for chu-toro (no, that’s not a Japanese breed of kissing bull raised Spain). And actually, a couple of pounds would be overkill since I”m not running a high-end sushi restaurant.
- An assortment of Japanese bamboo strainers in various sizes. Something like this:
On second thought, I don’t really need any bamboo strainers until I have a ready supply of fresh whole smallish sea fish.
- A new printer: Epson Stylus Pro 9800: http://www.vistek.ca/details/details.aspx?WebCode=221047&CategoryID=ProPhotoInkjet
- A nice, medium-duty satchel. I’ll know it when I see it, and I haven’t seen it yet. Good luck reading my mind. If you do manage to read my mind on this, don’t forget the matching towel. And a receipt just in case you get it wrong.
Am I hard to buy for? Not really, just specific. And likely buy stuff that I need when I need it rather than hoarding up desire for the sake of ritual.
===== GIFT LIST MESSAGE ENDS =====
That was it for the email. If you’re still reading and you feel any compulsion whatsoever to gift me with something in the above list—aside from the stuff to avoid—then
the subliminal messages hidden in comment tags in this document are working please send a message asking for an address. If you want to contribute to the EMF (Ed’s Mixer Fund), it would probably be more discreet to go through other channels.