Do you have gifts in your home from Christmases long ago that you still use daily? I have only one that I can think of and it is the microwave oven that I received from my mother in 1979. This unit, built by the Sharp company, has been heating up leftovers and beverages and thawing frozen goods for 40 years this December.

My dad died during the summer of 1979 and we were all dreading that first Christmas without him. Mom was determined to make a special Christmas for her daughters. Since my sister Jayne and I were married and living away from home, she decided the gift we most needed was a microwave oven. These were fairly new to kitchens and I hadn’t even considered putting one on my wish list, but mom thought it would be just the thing for us. The boxes were big and heavy and Jayne and I had no idea what was in them. We were so surprised to see these fantastic units. They were the latest and greatest thing with turntables to allow the food to cook evenly.

We took them home and made room on the kitchen counter which was no easy task because these were large. At first, I used mine to heat up cold tea and coffee and it took a while to get the hang of using it to actually cook. After several months of research and even a class at the merchant in Sioux City where mom bought it, I got the hang of using it for more than just warm-ups.

It’s hard to even imagine giving any appliance in this day and age that would last for 40 years. I am sure I will have to replace my microwave sometime in the near future, but for now, it reminds me of how many fun and useful gifts there are to buy for friends and family that will make their time in the kitchen more enjoyable.

This column is to remind you there are many wonderful gifts for cooks right here in our fair city. Here are a few ideas of items to put under the tree or to stuff a stocking for your kitchen crew.

If you have grill enthusiasts on your list, check out the selections at our local Ace Hardware. You will find a large selection of charcoal or propane grills, smokers, Big Green Eggs, Traeger pellet grills and every accessory necessary to turn out perfect steaks, burgers, ribs, etc. While you are there check out their appliance selection and kitchen wares. They have a great selection of popular appliances from quality manufacturers.

December 12,13 and 14 will find me enjoying the last Estate Dispersal Sale of 2019. I will be looking for anything to add to the collections of people on my list. This store changes every month and offers so many things for your family cooks. You can find beautiful glassware, dishes, older and favorite pieces of Tupperware, silver tea services and other lovely things to set a beautiful table. You will also find a large selection of cookbooks of all sorts. I rarely leave this store without purchasing something that I just can’t resist for myself or someone else. Some of my best gift-giving has started at this store with gently used items. For those of you who frequent this monthly sale, please note that according to the schedule I picked up at the beginning of the year, the store is not opened on the Sunday of the sale week in December.

Last week, I spent several pleasant hours exploring the shops of downtown Fremont. There was so much to see and buy. I started out at Park Avenue Antiques. The stock there is always changing and just lovely. I love to check out the Gooseberry cookbooks on their shelves. One of my daughters is a big fan of these books because they feature recipes that are simple and delicious. Park Avenue also carries a large selection of kitchen wares, linens, serving plates and many beautiful things to set a gorgeous table. If you are looking for hostess gifts or stocking stuffers, they carry the Stonewall Kitchen line. These savory or sweet treats make a delightful accompaniment to any meal. There is also a wide assortment of antique finds at this wonderful downtown store.

I then walked over to Main Street and visited the Wise Old Owl. Once again, this store is full of delightful gifts for every cook on your list. Walk to the back of the store for lots of kitchen helpers and wine accessories. They also have a huge selection of Republic of Teas teas. I always swear I am not going to buy any more tea until I use what I already have and then Brian or Thom serve me whatever they are sampling that day and I can’t resist. This year they got me with a sample of Peppermint Bark. I caved, bought a can and I’m sipping a cuppa as I write this.

The best new item on their shelves that would make a great stocking stuffer is from Cornhusker Kitchens. Duck Fat Cooking Spray is a luxury item for the serious and curious cook. I have purchased duck fat from gourmet shops in the past and I thought the idea of duck fat cooking spray was interesting and I had to try it. According to the recipe card that came with my purchase, this spray is high in monounsaturated fat, high in Omega-6 and Omega-3 essential oils, has a high smoke point and 41% less saturated fat than butter. The recipe card also featured a recipe for Duck Fat Seared Sea Scallops and Duck Fat Grilled Steaks. I can’t wait to try both of them.

I then walked next door to the Wine Experience. I had a delightful visit with the owner who had just what I was looking for – white and red wines from New Zealand to fill our holiday glasses. He did not steer me wrong and we enjoyed his suggestions greatly. Wine Experience features lovely wines at very affordable prices. This shop also carries many wine accessories for gifts in all price ranges.

If you know someone who collects vintage Pyrex ware, walk down the street to Riff Raff Relics. I love this shop and was so impressed by the variety of Pyrex dishes that are on their shelves. There are so many rare and unusual pieces. This store also features cookbooks, glassware and dishes that recall many memories from this girl’s past. Be sure to visit this newest addition to the downtown Fremont lineup.

I then headed over to 6th Street and checked out the offerings at The Chestnut Market. There is a wide range of antique and new merchandise at this lovely shop that has made good use of some of the space Yankee Peddler West used to occupy. My favorite baby gift is at this store. It is The Mini Mat by ezpzfun. This is a combination one-piece silicon plate and a placemat for the littlest eaters on your list. It is perfect for home or eating out and about. It is dishwasher safe so you can be assured it is perfectly clean and sanitized. If you need a Christmas gift, shower or baby gift for a new mom’s table, this is perfect!

The Chestnut Market also features lots of vintage items including a wonderful old-fashioned scale that is a smaller version of the one I use many times. I was also glad to see they were still carrying the Kitchen Boa. This reinvention of the classic tea towel is worn around the neck like a scarf. That means it is always handy to wipe your messy hands or clean up spills and to serve as a potholder. It’s a brilliant idea for any dedicated cook who often finds herself misplacing her tea towel or potholder. Since this describes me to a “tee,” I love this handy item.

It was closing time before I could visit Fia and Belle and Yankee Peddler West, but I know they have wonderful gifts for anyone on your gift list including beloved cooks who make your meals memorable all year long.

Before you leave our fair city with your gift list, check out the wonderful shops in Fremont. These merchants are here to serve you and your gift-giving needs and will appreciate your business.

Quote of the Week: Every sunrise is an invitation for us to arise and brighten someone’s day. — Richelle Goodrich

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Ellen Lund of Fremont is a freelance food columnist.


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