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Q: Where did you begin cooking and crafting?
A: I think one of the reasons cooking and crafting have such wide appeal is because almost everyone is exposed to these skill sets very early. Baking cookies with your mom, paper, scissors and paste projects in school etc. have always been part of growing up. Serious cooking began for me while in my early 20’s. I have never considered myself a real crafter, but from the moment I thought my food was good enough to share with others, I thought it was good enough to be wrapped beautifully.
Q: Where do you find inspiration for new projects?
A: I am first and foremost a cook, so gift projects always start with the food. Not all good food is suitable for gifts. I want the containers and embellishments I choose to add another layer of luxury to the gift, and often that means the container should be attractive enough to serve from, or an implement (like a pickle fork or wooden scoop) becomes an embellishment. Sometimes the ingredients, the season or the occasion inspire how I will wrap something I have made for giving.
Q: What was your favorite place and how did it inspire your career?
A: My career has principally been that of a cooking teacher and a food writer. Each place I have lived provided me with opportunities to either improve or share those skills. The teachers, mentors, friends and students I encountered in each place made the time I spent there rewarding and memorable in different ways. While I never had a home of my own in France, the extended time I spent there each year taking classes or staying with Simca (Simone Beck was Julia Child’s co-author for Vols. I and II of Mastering the Art of French Cooking) and just cooking and eating with old friends and new, were undoubtedly the most wonderful to experience and the most influential in determining the style of my cooking, my teaching, and my writing.
Q: How do I put together creative homemade gifts without spending a lot of money?
A: Since no one wants to give or receive a gift that yells “thrifty,” I think it is necessary to invest more of ourselves, our skills, and our time in the budget conscious gifts we make at home. That is just one more reason food makes such splendid gifts. When time and money are both in short supply, I think it is important to keep it very, very simple. Simplicity is style statement. It never looks cheap or rushed. I cut costs by using seasonal ingredients and buying expensive items like nuts, vanilla beans, and dried fruits in bulk from high-end online sources. In addition, it is wise to choose recipes that don’t require a lot of packaging because tins, jars, boxes and the like are more expensive than glassine bags, white ice cream cartons or cardstock pillow boxes, for examples.
Q: What online sources do you use for inspiration?
A: I browse the web more for realization than inspiration. I spent a lot of time while writing and testing ideas for the book finding affordable sources for the supplies and materials that would make my ideas accessible to all readers. For packaging baked goods I especially like technobake.com, bakedeco.com, and cookietins.com. For containers I use the following sites: beau-coup.com (unusual and themed containers), origincrafts.com (a wide variety of affordable but very upscale items that work well for my ideas) and fruendcontainer.com (my one stop shop for glass bottles and jars as well as affordable small tins). Jamali Floral and Garden Supplies (jamaligarden.com) also has a lot of great products I use for containers, and they have an amazing selection of reasonably priced embellishments as well.
Q: What essential crafting tools and supplies should I always have on hand?
A: Compared to most crafters, I think my tool selection is probably minimal. Long reach hole punches, super tacky craft glue, double faced adhesive tape (especially the red-line variety), and a good paper cutter are my essential tools outside the kitchen. I use so much white craft paper that I finally installed an antique paper roll with a cutter from a general store on my kitchen counter. Large rolls of clear cellophane, lots of paper raffia ribbon, and brightly colored waxed twine are must haves as well. I like to have bottles, jars, and tins on hand and often run out of places to store them! I also cannot resist good-looking tags and labels which come in very handy when you don’t have time to make them yourself.
Q: What is the one thing I would want readers to take away from Gourmet Gifts?
A: Probably the same core ideas that inspired me to write the book in the first place. Gifts of food should be wrapped with same care, attention, and creativity that went into their preparation. Good things to eat should be a feast for the eyes, as well as the palate, whether they are on a plate or in a package.
To see a gourmet gifts and guest post by Dinah please check out Part 1 of the blog tour.