At last, this year’s installment of a holiday tradition: Megan McArdle’s Gift List for the cook in your life.  I like this:

Microplane grater  Every year I lead off with this, and why not?  It’s admirably affordable, perfect for a Secret Santa or gift exchange.  And it’s incredibly useful.  If you’ve been grating your knuckles zesting lemons on an old fashioned box grater–or allowing loved ones to do so–then stop that right now!  A microplane grater will zest a lemon in thirty seconds, taking off just the tasty yellow part and leaving the bitter white firmly on the fruit.  It creates beautiful little clouds of parmesan cheese to top pasta or salad, or a puff of chocolate shavings to finish off your mousse.  I occasionally bring it right to the table so people can grate their own.  All around, one of the best “bang for the buck” tools I own, but lots of people still don’t have them.

I couldn’t possibly agree more with this! These things are reasonably priced, and very, very useful. I also agree with her that a good salad spinner is incredibly useful. I hadn’t seen a salt pig on Megan’s list in the past, but we’ve been using something like it since I brought back bulk sea salt from France in the spring, and am surprised by how useful it is.

Megan’s section on kitchen knives is well worth reading. It’s tricky to buy them for people, because knives are a personal thing. But if you can figure out what kind of knives your home cook likes, you could do them a terrific favor by laying out serious change for a quality knife. You might remember that my wife literally made me cry a few Christmases ago when she bought me a Shun Ken Onion set from Williams-Sonoma. I didn’t think it could get any better than that, but darned if we both don’t like even more than the Shun knives a 10-inch chef’s knife I picked up at Dehillerin (their house brand) in Paris this spring. A $40 knife, so less expensive than many in its category, but by far the most useful knife in our kitchen. I wish I had three more.

I don’t really need or want anything special for the kitchen this year, but once you guys buy a million copies of my book next year (heh), I sure do want to buy some Le Creuset.