Memorial Day Weekend is approaching, and along with it comes summer, the season of celebrating both college and high school graduations, and weddings galore. While the summer of 2020 may look a little different in terms of large gatherings, one thing remains the same, graduates deserve to be congratulated. If this were a normal school year, I would currently be spending my last full week with my seniors. The side of my metal filing cabinet would be filled with more graduation party invitations than the amount of magnets I own can hold. Now, the invites are digital, and the parties pushed to August, but one fact remains, they made it. They completed thirteen years of education.
It can be challenging to figure out what to get a graduate for a gift. Some of them will be attending a four year college and moving into cubicle-sized dorm rooms, some are joining the military, some are staying home and attending a technical college, and some are moving into an apartment of their own as they join the workforce. Regardless of the path they are taking, it usually seems like the best option for a congratulatory gift is either cash or a gift card. However, one item is often overlooked – the cookbook.
I know what you are thinking, if your senior is moving into a dorm, they aren’t going to be doing much cooking, but many dorm buildings have at least one kitchen that the whole building can share.. This can come as a great convenience when a college student wants to share the fun task of whipping up a batch of cookies with friends on a Friday night, or if they want to make some healthy lunch options to store in their mini fridge. I know there were numerous times where I made up a batch of shredded buffalo chicken meat so I could use it in wraps throughout the week instead of frequenting the cafeteria for yet another bowl of pasta.
This brings a question to the forefront. How much does your graduate actually know about cooking? Are they a beginner that has only made mac and cheese? An amateur that has helped out in the kitchen but never made a full course meal for themselves? Or an expert that has cooked as a hobby for sometime now? Regardless of the answer, they have most likely used cookbooks from your own collection throughout their kitchen experiences. For this reason, getting them a cookbook of their own is an incredibly helpful gift.
The cookbook you choose will depend entirely on your own experiences as a chef, but it should be one that mimics the food they have grown up with their entire life. Most likely, when they get sick of eating cafeteria food or take out orders of pizza, they will want food that reminds them of home. So, if you have that one cookbook that you use in your home more than all the rest, try to find them a copy of it that they can use and love. That way they know the recipe they are using to make tacos will end up tasting like it has always tasted their whole life. Nothing is worse than expecting a meal to taste one way and then being blindsided by a different concoction of flavors.
If you are a Pinterest cook, and have always pulled various recipes from here and there, I recommend getting your graduate a basic cookbook that covers various different techniques and recipes. My own personal favorite is Betty Crocker’s Cookbook. Here is the thing about cooking for the first time after leaving home, your child may have learned that you can look up any recipe online to make it; however, online recipes don’t always cover the techniques and terms used throughout the steps.
I will never forget the first time I went to make an apple crisp on my own. The first instruction in the recipe told me to “pare the apples.” This was a term I was completely unfamiliar with and had to look up on Google. Once I looked it up, it made complete sense. Of course I had to cut the skin off the apple before making an apple crisp, but even though I had spent numerous hours in the kitchen before that, a complex recipe could still put me on “pause” from some of the techniques and words being used.
A basic cookbook like the Betty Crocker doesn’t just give hundreds of recipes, but it also covers all the steps such as how long to boil eggs, how to carve a chicken, etc. These are all tips that seem obvious to the person who has been cooking meals for the family for the last 18 years, but since they are things that are done so naturally, they are also items that we often forget to teach.
Getting your child a basic cookbook doesn’t mean they lack any skill either, it just goes to show that cooking is a process that can take years to master. I know with 100% certainty that I placed many calls to my mom throughout college to ask her technique questions. Growing up, I cooked a lot, and yet there were simple concepts that I didn’t know because she had always had them prepped ahead of time. For example, with recipes that called for shredded chicken, she had always already cooked chicken breasts ahead of time and frozen bags of it to pull out at her convenience. For this reason, I didn’t actually know how long a chicken breast was supposed to be roasted in the oven before it would be ready to shred. I also had never liked boiled eggs as a child, so when I got married, and Cole wanted boiled eggs, I didn’t know how to do that. Whenever I was sick I would want a plain potato with just salt and a little bit of butter to calm my stomach, but baked potatoes were, once again, one of those simple foods that I never bothered to learn how to make. I only helped in the kitchen when something more extravagant was being made.
It is very possible that your senior is in the same boat. They understand how to cook and they can follow a recipe, but they may not have done some of the more simple and obvious tasks. For this reason, a Betty Crocker Cookbook can be an excellent gift. It covers all the basics, and gives recipes to try them out.
The final option of a cookbook is more time consuming, but is the most meaningful of all. If you are the chef of the household, you can make your graduate their own cookbook with the recipes that you know they love the most. Amazon sells many different versions of blank cookbooks that you can buy for a minimal cost, choosing to spend your time instead of your money. This is the approach my mom took when I graduated high school. She spent hours pouring over her own recipes and her large collection of cookbooks. She put post-it notes on all the recipes she knew I loved and would want to know how to make. Then she gradually copied all the recipes down into a blank cookbook so that I could have my own compilation of my childhood favorites. This cookbook is the one that I use more than anything else. It never even returns to my cookbook shelf, it stays in a kitchen cabinet, ready to pull out at a second’s notice. If I am not experimenting with creating my own recipes, then I am most likely using this book to put a meal together.
The coolest piece of it is that it is all handwritten. Even though we don’t even live in the same town anymore, my mom is in the kitchen with me whenever I’m using it. Another nice thing about this approach is that I can always add to it because it still has blank pages left. This meant that when I would call my mom and ask her how long to boil eggs, I could write it down in the book she gave me. Or if I’m visiting her, and she’s trying out a new recipe that I love, I can use one of the blank pages to add it in. It’s more than just a one time gift, it’s one that can be added to and made fuller with each family get together
Whether it’s a copy of the cookbook you use most, a basic techniques cookbook, or a homemade craft, a cookbook is a gift that your graduate can treasure for life. It can offer them a little piece of you, and a little piece of home, when they are missing childhood. Nothing says home more than a delicious meal or a warm batch of cookies. Congratulations to the Class of 2020!