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Bites: It's the gift that keeps on giving 

In case you were unaware, New Times headquarters is in a cozy basement somewhere on Marsh Street in SLO.

Down here, the writers are prone to a litany of maladies, including (but not limited to) Vitamin D deficiency, partiality for British television dramas, woman’s hysteria, osteoporosis, and frugality. The latter can make the holidays an incredibly difficult season. And with all of the insider knowledge I have on every employee shopping list, I can report that there are going to be some very, very disappointed New Times spouses out there (if any of you should find a New Times calendar under the tree, you need to know that they were free to employees and you’re dating a cheapskate).

In all seriousness, we know the holidays have nothing to do with the quality or  price tag of the gift. In fact, the holidays have nothing to do with gifts, or Santa, or stockings at all. The holidays are, of course, about food and booze … and a little more food.

These precious tenets of the giving season are bountiful and joyous and will get you out of any gift-giving bind faster than you can say “Is the Dollar Store open at 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve?”

Cousin Eddie of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation fame knew the value of a food-based gift when he looked Clark Griswold’s Jell-o of the Month Club bonus in the face and said, “Clark, that’s the gift that keeps giving … the whole year through.”

Be like Cousin Eddie. Give the gift of food.

One such way is to prepare some handmade certificates for home-cooked meals. If you know any new parents or older folks, these are especially hot commodities.

You can even do what New Times Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach did, which is do some in-depth reconnaissance on what type of restaurants your loved ones like, pop for a gift certificate, and offer to watch the family’s brats for a couple of hours so the couple can enjoy a highchair-free dinner.

Or be even more inventive and do what Contributing Writer Kathy Johnston did, which is offer to cook a meal-per-season for her family members.

But the originality didn’t stop there. By the end of her “year of food,” Kathy was making meals out of ingredients she collected from her garden or nearby, making them almost entirely free.

She even made chanterelle mushroom enchiladas with an acorn sauce. Good luck topping that.

There are lots of ways to be both financial responsible and a totally boss gift-giver this holiday season.

For the supporting cast members in your life, a tray of cookies goes a long way (lots of people eat their feelings during the holiday season, so don’t be surprised if your Tupperware returns a little tear-stained).

Last, but not least, for those 21 and older, booze is a real crowd pleaser, especially on a cold, December night. Sangria is simple, yet almost universally loved recipe. It’s cheap, too, and if you pop for a dozen Ball glasses at Walmart ($15), you’ll have yourself an affordable and classy gift. ∆

Calendar Editor Maeva Considine might come down your chimney, but only if she’s drunk and lost. Send her directions to your house at

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