Birthday Week! Ideas on How to Celebrate with the Cooks in your Life
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In this house, birthdays last a whole week, meaning the birthday girl, or boy, or dog, gets a whole week of surprises, yummy food, fun activities, first choice in movies, power over the remote, and much more, all in a "it's your week so you might as well take advantage of it before you lose all your power in 7 days" kind of way.
This week, it was my turn. This usually means going to the movies will absolutely happen, lots of popcorn will be eaten, pizza will be eaten, going to my favorite restaurant will happen, presents will be bought, and more often than not, this means two things: a kitchen gadget of some kind, a course of some kind, or a cookbook. Especially the latter. Here's the sad truth though, whenever someone wants to give me a gift for my birthday, they tend to steer clear from anything culinary because they know I spend every waking hour in the kitchen. They think I probably have it all when it comes to the kitchen (yeah right!), or that I'm a recipe creator and already know enough about cooking (as if that were even possible!), or they think "she's already in there all the time, she probably needs a sweater, let's not give her something that will put her back in the kitchen, that's so 1950s!".
All of this reasoning is WRONG, and that's what I'm planning on showing you today with this cool gift guide for vegan cooks! You see, for the avid cook, the one that exercises watching cooking shows, the one that can spend a whole hour inspecting a new chef's knife, the one that watches Master Chef and immediately wants to go into the kitchen instead of going to a fancy restaurant, the one that treats her cookbooks like they were an ancient manuscript from the Middle Ages, for this type of cook, there's nothing better than cooking.
Of course there are many types of cooks in this world. Some cook mainly because they have to, they need to get dinner on the table, they might not hate it but it's just a means to an end. Although this post will include some ideas that every singe person that wears the chef's hat in the family will enjoy when it comes to celebrations, presents or just a little TLC, other recommendations will be more for people like me, who can listen to a 45 minute podcast episode about the Maillard reaction as intently as a Serial episode. I hope that with this post you'll have some amazing ideas that the cooks in your life will love, from gadgets, to books, to experiences, to presents that don't cost a dime, to ways of celebrating the actual birthday and much more.
Let's get to it!
Ideas for Celebrating on the actual birthday
Here's the weird thing about us cooks, although we'd love to be showered with anything culinary and get in the kitchen as soon as the birthday is over, if we're not only cooks who love to cook but also cooks who are in charge of every meal during the week, our birthdays are for experiencing culinary adventures at the hands of other cooks. We want to try foods, flavors, textures, combinations that will inspire our cooking moving forward, which is why, the best way to celebrate with a cook who cooks every single day is to take 'em out! One of my dreams, which I rarely get to do because of budgeting issues and especially when my birthday falls on a weekday like it did this year, is to wake up on my birthday knowing Carlos will take me somewhere for breakfast and brunch, to another delicious spot for lunch, and then to another for dinner. Cooks are always studying, learning, and our imaginations grow wild when we go to restaurants that serve great food.
Here are some ideas, and the personality of the cook in question will determine which one will be a huge hit.
Go to a restaurant that serves an exotic cuisine you don't usually try.
- Carlos once took me to an Israeli restaurant that only served hot hummus, pita bread and mini Jerusalem style salads. It had maybe 7 items in the entire menu and 4 of them were hummus, and I still remember it as one of my favorite meals.
Go to a place that serves fun food.
- Sometimes cooks take cooking so seriously that all we want is a good vegan burger or a big pizza pie with tons of melted vegan cheese. Take him or her to a place that makes banana splits with vegan ice cream and multi-colored sprinkles. Go eat some tacos with your hands, anything that screams fun. Although I fit into all the options I´m giving you, this is usually my pick, because birthdays are where you get to be a kid again, this also means Carlos is lucky because I'm such cheap date.
Do a little research and take him or her to a higher end restaurant.
- Especially one that has a unique take on dishes, lots of creativity, very dim lighting and delicious wine.
Go on a food truckin' date.
- Go to a food truck festival or area, and tell your birthday girl or guy that you're actually going on a food truck tour. This means you're going to try as many different items from as many different trucks as you desire. Nothing is as fun as a "carte blanche" when it comes to what and how much to order. Fun right?
Go on a cooking demonstration/class/dinner experience.
- They've become really popular, and you get to see the chef making every dish, explaining how dishes are made, you get to help out, and then eat delicious food. It's trickier to find these types of "restaurants" or cooking clubs that cater to vegans, but smaller cooking classes include eating all the goodies afterwards and you can book a cooking class exclusively for friends or family and take everyone along. I'll tell you about my favorite cooking classes further down in this list.
Go to a vineyard
- If the cook in your life also loves wine, you can do a little research on what vineyards have vegan options in their food menu, and take a little trip to the vineyard for some yummy food and wine.
Visit a vegetable farm
- Seeing how vegetables grow and getting to eat them right out of the soil is like porn for foodies and cooks. You can go to a yummy restaurant afterwards and you'll have a huge hit on your hands.
Go on a picnic
- A fabulous option that can cost next to nothing, for which you can cook some goodies, or buy some store-bought ones. Don't miss our post and podcast episode on vegan meal ideas for picnics here.
Throw them a bash (with everything planned and ready)
- Here's the thing, cooks don't want to be hidden away in the kitchen on their birthday while all their friends and family are hanging out outside. If you're planning a party for your loved one, do it in a way that won't involve them wearing an apron. Hand them a glass of wine or a cold one and tell them to enjoy the party and the delicious food that is ready to be enjoyed. You can ask friends and family to each bring a dish, buy some ready-made staples, or order some options at a local restaurant he or she likes. Don't forget the cake!
Have a food movie night
- If part of the celebration includes cuddling on the couch over a good movie, order some delicious takeout, and have a selection of food movies. I guarantee this will be such a huge hit. Use our food movie guide below for some ideas:
Food Lovers Movie Guide
- Here are some of my favorites (keep in mind that animal products are used in all of these, one day we'll have a film about a rat chef who decides to go vegan):
- Julie and Julia: based on a true story about a woman who decides to cook every single recipe from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking", and a montage between her life and Julia's.
- Waitress: about a woman obsessed with making pies (a little silly indie gem). Secretly have a pie hidden away for the end of the film. You'll score major points with that move.
- Ratatouille: an animated film about a rat who starts cooking in secret at a restaurant (pure culinary poetry about how anyone can cook).
- No Reservations: An adorable film and love story about two cooks who start getting very territorial about their kitchen.
- Chocolat: have some chocolate in the house is all I´m going to say about this one.
- Like Water for Chocolate: a film about families, and how everything we feel gets infused into our cooking.
- Babette's feast: A Danish film about the preparation of a meal that causes an unexpected result at the table. You will laugh and cry simultaneously.
- The Hundred Foot Journey: A movie about what wins, tradition or modernity? Order some curry. That part is very important.
- Chef: A fantastic film perfect for dreamers and food truck lovers.
- Soul food: A film about family drama, and delicious Southern soul food.
- The Lunchbox: Love, the quest for human connection, and a home-cooked delivery service meet in this Indian indie.
- Vatel: A total Versaille style foodie extravaganza with Gérard Depardieu.
- Eat Pray Love: Julia Roberts stars in this story about a woman finding herself through food, spirituality and love. Have some pasta in the house or a ticket to Italy.
- Simply Irresistible: A slightly silly rom-com that will make you go right to your kitchen to make napoleons and delicious eclairs.
- Stranger than Fiction: a fabulous movie that is not specifically about food, but that has the most romantic foodie scene EVER, in which Will Ferrell takes "flours" not "flowers" to the girl he loves, who owns a bakery, which is also featured plenty of times in the film.
- Awesome food documentaries focused on plant based eating like Food Inc, Vegucated (my absolute favorite), Food Matters, Forks Over Knives, Food Choices, and so many others.
Presents for the Gadget Obsessed
Cooks love new gadgets, and these can range from expensive to ridiculously simple and inexpensive. Here are some of my favorites, in a future kitchen equipment post and episode I'll be recommending my favorite brands and products, but here's a list to get you started, most of these are available on Amazon, or at any kitchen supply store in a wide range of prices:
- A mandolin slicer: one of my favorite kitchen tools that elevates your cooking in such a simple way.
- A garlic press: always a good idea for some recipes.
- A vegetable spiralizer: Turn veggies into pasta for a delicious healthy twist and for adding variety to presentations.
- A sushi making kit: Include a bamboo bowl for the rice and you'll get a gold star!
- A set of pastry bags and nozzles: You can never have too many.
- Extra wooden spoons and cooking utensils, including plenty of rubber spatulas. I would get so much use out of a bouquet of rubber spatulas because I destroy mine so frequently!
- A manual run-through knife sharpener: A sharp knife you can keep sharp at home is also like porn for a cook.
- The spoon pot clip: It holds your spoon over the pot. No more dripping on your kitchen counter!
- A set of measuring cups and measuring spoons.
- A carbon steel wok set that includes the wire "shelf", bamboo basket and stir-frying spoon.
- A heavy and sturdy bamboo cutting board. The heavier, the better.
More expensive equipment
- A good food processor with a large and smaller bowl. I love the Kitchen Aid food processor. There are many brands, models and sizes.
- A high speed blender like Vitamix or Blendtec.
- A dehydrator if your loved one is into raw cooking.
- An electric knife sharpener.
- A good chef´s knife, my favorite knives are Japanese, like the Kasumi.
- A heavy duty cast iron pan.
- The Kitchen Aid mixer, it comes in so many beautiful colors and models. They all work great.
There are countless others, we'll cover them all soon in a special kitchen equipment post.
Cute Ideas for Small Budgets
- Going on a picnic and having a food movie night at home as mentioned above, are among my favorites.
- Create some personalized gift coupons (now there are plenty of templates you can use online like Canva. If you celebrate the whole week like we do, you can email them or give out one each day and have them go from simple to awesome. Coupons can include a "no questions asked kitchen clean up", coupons for a takeout night to give your loved one a break, an "I'll cook" night (even if all you can make is frozen pizza), coupons for a post-cooking back and foot rub, and so many other ideas.
- Find an inexpensive fruit and vegetable subscription box and set up delivery so that your loved one will always have fruits and veggies to experiment with. Some of these subscription boxes are very affordable, and they're so much fun to get.
- Create a specially designed basket filled with yummy ingredients. Think of things we don't normally have around the house and that the cook in your life can experiment with. Go to an Asian market or an Italian store, buy some sauces or spices, infused oils, the sky is the limit and you can stick to a small or large budget and make an awesome gift.
- Buy all the ingredients he or she will need to create their favorite dish (not yours! no cheating!) get everything ready in the kitchen and tell them you're going to make it together. Instant swoon!
Gifting a Culinary Experience
Whether it's a trip to a vineyard, a food tasting event, or a cooking class or course, it's always fun to do something together that will also expand their culinary knowledge. The best gift I have ever given myself was the online cooking course by the Spork Sisters, which is sadly no longer available online, but if you live in the LA area, I can't think of a better gift than a live vegan cooking class with two of my favorite chefs on the planet, the creators of Spork Foods. If you don't live in the LA area, you can google local vegan cooking classes and of course, we have our online vegan cooking classes inside our signature online program My Brownble, which you can learn all about here.
Cookbooks are my drug. I'm serious. I have a problem. If I walk into the cooking section of a bookstore, you've lost me. Your destiny is to now sit in a chair playing Bejeweled, because you've likely already browsed all the bookstore and I'm still looking at the same book.
Giving a cookbook, or a book about food (these are different), is always, ALWAYS a good idea for a cooking enthusiast. I will always scream with joy if I see a book with anything resembling food when I rip open the wrapping paper.
If you think he or she has enough already, they don't.
If you think he or she hasn't even cooked through the ones they have and this is therefore an unnecessary gift, it isn´t.
If you think this gift is too small a gift and it will disappoint, it won't.
If you think a regular book or novel will be more enjoyable, it won't, unless it's about a cook of course.
Now that I've hopefully convinced you. Let's talk about the two kinds of books you can give the vegan foodies in your life.
Book type 1: The traditional cookbook (and how to access our Vegan Library and take a look at our favorite titles)
These are full of recipes, beautiful photos, lots of meal ideas. You can never have too many, especially when you think of the millions that are out there, the hundreds of different cuisines and ingredient or food type focused recipe books.
For our favorite vegan cookbooks, check out our vegan library of resources through the pink button at the end of this post, to get instant access and view our favorite titles which will take you straight to Amazon.
Book type 2: Books on food and chefs for the serious foodie
Although also usually full of recipes, books by award winning chefs and restaurants, their culinary stories and journeys, or classic textbooks on culinary techniques make such good gifts. Many of these are not vegan focused since they span the traditional culinary schools and techniques that have shaped the culinary world. On that I can only tell you this, and you can disagree if you want to which I completely respect and understand, I have an equal amount of vegan and non-vegan books on food and cooking, and many of my go to "bibles" are nothing close to vegan, but it's here where my style of cooking was born, and the ultimate test to my vegan cooking abilities. "How can I take this classic French technique and make it vegan?". This is where the fun lies for me, which is why I still buy many non-vegan cookbooks and I read all the recipes, from the veggie ones to the non-veggie ones.
Just in case you feel comfortable with this, here are some of my favorite cooking bibles, some of them are almost fully vegan, others are vegetarian with countless vegan techniques, others include both the basics of artichoke mastery and de-boning a duck. Keep your loved one in mind when deciding to gift one of these books and whether they feel comfortable with seeing non-vegan techniques and ingredients being mentioned.
- How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman
- The Vegetarian Flavor Bible by Karen Page
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child
- Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
- Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi
- The Art of Cooking with Vegetables by Alain Passard
- On Vegetables by Jeremy Fox
- Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison
- Eat your Vegetables by Joe Yonan
- The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
- Any of the textbooks from the Culinary Institute of America including The Professional Chef, Baking and Pastry, Vegetarian Cooking at Home, Cooking at Home, and so many others.
- Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner
- Vegan Chocolate by Fran Costigan
- Essentials of Professional Cooking by Wayne Gisslen and others by the same author including Professional Coking and Professional Baking
- Culinology by the Research Chefs Association
- So many other professional books and cookbooks. A great list is featured here.