A Memo to Santa

I'm really not one for gifts. Ask my mother -- it drives her crazy. This is one of the main reasons the O'Donnel family has gathered in Key West this week -- the sunny, 80-degree weather while the rest of the country runs for ice-storm cover is the best Christmas gift of all. We made a pact that there would be no gift exchange this year -- and instead would exchange the gift of each other's presence. So far, it's working out, and we're having a ball, eating dinner together for the first time in six years, laughing out loud and playing Scrabble out on the patio, a game at which certain unnamed family members like to cheat and create words not yet in the English dictionary.

Mister MA and I also made a similar pact, but he often bends the rules because he loves buying gifts. What can I say -- I'm a lucky gal. Go ahead, twist my arm, and here's what you'd find on this year's wish list, you know, in case someone is wondering. While I'm at it, let me twist your arm; share what's on your food-centric wine list in the comment areas below. The sky's the limit!

So I'd like a cake plate please -- one with a dome for display and transport and one for serving. As much as I love the looking glass idea, I'll say no to a glass dome -- too risky for breakage.

Remember those salad spinners from the 70s? I know we had at least one in our house that collected dust in the cabinets. The thing is, it really does work like a charm -- and is a green alternative to drying lettuce leaves and herbs with paper towels.

As many of you know, I love to make candy, which means I really should have a marble slab for playing with fondants and sugar pastes and other confections. But if Santa wants to save a few bucks, I recommend checking out the selection at Home Depot rather than the fancy cookware shops.

It's an extravagance, I know, but since we're dreaming, I'd like a small wine refrigerator please, with a maximum capacity of 12 bottles, so that all of my vinos can be stored at the proper temperature and the food in my fridge can breathe .

Here's one I've been wanting for a while: an extra coffee grinder to be used for nuts and spices. Nothing fancy; I bet you could pick one up at Target, dear. Don't worry; I still love my mortar and pestle for its therapeutic pounding opportunities, but sometimes it's nice to grind something in a flash.

A double-sided griddle would be nice -- flat for pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches, and ridged for a winter-time seared piece of fish or burger.

And since I have board games on the brain, I'd love to add "Foodie Fight" to my collection, a Trivia Pursuit-like game of all things culinary. Sounds like a hoot -- can anyone vouch for its fun quotient?

Santa knows how much I love to travel, and so if he found a bunch of loot under his bed and was looking for a way to use it, I'll throw my hat in the ring for some cooking classes in Oaxaca or Thailand or Vietnam. I can have my bags packed in no time, so just give me the signal and my passport and I will be ready to go.

*****Today, the O'Donnels head north on the Overseas Highway, the southern tip of US 1 and road trip up the Keys for an afternoon excursion. Check back tomorrow for a report

By Kim ODonnel |  December 12, 2007; 10:03 AM ET Gifts , Winter Holidays
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I can much vouch for Foodie Fight's fun (a St Louis cooking school is even putting together Saturday night classes using it as the 'entertainment' while dinner cooks) but would recommend grabbing a box IF you find one, they're on back order everywhere.

Posted by: Alanna | December 12, 2007 10:34 AM

I have a wonderful cake carrier that I would highly recommend. http://www.surlatable.com/product/leifheit+salad+and+cake+carrier.do?search=basic&keyword=carrier&sortby=gsa&asc=true&page=1

The base has a built-in ice pack and it can double as a salad bowl when turned upside down. It's incredibly secure - I have transported layer cakes on the Metro with it!

Posted by: Allison | December 12, 2007 11:35 AM

I, too, would like a second coffee grinder for the same reasons posted! I am paranoid that flax seed will be floating in my coffee or that my coffee will contain leftover pieces of spices. It's nice to know I am not alone on this one! My first coffee grinder was a wedding gift from Bed Bath & Beyond, it was about $20 and they have different colors to choose from!

Posted by: Southern Gal | December 12, 2007 12:40 PM

to Allison:

That actually looks really cool; I think I might add that to my Christmas wish list! My cake dome is glass, which means I can't travel with it. It is pretty though, and is one of those multi-purpose cake stand things that can hold veggies/chips & dips, or the lid can flip over and serve as a punch bowl.

Posted by: Southern Gal | December 12, 2007 12:44 PM

I don't grind coffee, but I want a coffee grinder for the same reasons everyone else does. I want a vintage metal cake plate and lid. And can someone tell my husband an extra bowl for my KitchenAid isn't too much?

Posted by: LisaLuvs2Cook | December 12, 2007 2:31 PM

Hmm.... A coffee grinder does sound like a good idea. Do you think we'd need multiples since one thing I probably would grind would be dried chiles?

Also, and I hate to admit this, I could use a toaster. It's odd to think that we've gone 11 years without one, but we have. I've made do with all sorts of other things, but nothing beats a simple toaster for making toast.

Can't go wrong with quality ingredients - good chocolate, etc.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | December 12, 2007 2:46 PM

Kim, good for you for forgoing the gift exchange this year. I tried that with my family and was wholly rebuked. Oh, well. Don't get me wrong because like Mr. MA I love thinking about someone and picking a nice gift, but I would really have loved to just focus on being together without worrying about whether someone will like my choices.

BTW, you can get a functional coffee grinder at a grocery store. I bought my last two at Giant. I've got three incidentally: one for coffee that's never used anymore since I started buying FRESHLY ROASTED coffee at Java House (javahousedc.com) and grinding my half pound right there every week. My second one is just for flax seeds to go in the daily oatmeal breakfast. The third is for grinding spices. Incidentally, I think the best way to clean a spice grinder is to grind up about a tablespoon of uncooked rice into dust as it's just abrasive enough to really get out the other spices. Then I just wipe with a paper towel.

My main wish list on Amazon is for kitchen stuff and cookbooks. In addition to cookbooks like "Chocolate and Zucchini" some things I'd like are a replacement fat separator and some nice steak knives.

Posted by: Sean | December 12, 2007 2:55 PM

I love to cook, bake, and read, and thus the top of my wish-list this year is comprised mainly of cooking- and baking-related books. I'm hoping Santa brings Alice Waters' new book, The Art of Simple Food, as well as a classic - The Tassajara Bread Book, by Edward Espe Brown. I saw How to Cook Your Life on opening night (thanks for the tip, Kim!) and now I'm feeling motivated to use my hands and bake some bread.

Posted by: Rachel | December 12, 2007 4:27 PM

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