If you’re running out of time and options for Christmas gifts, and don’t want to resort to a gift certificate, consider signing your favorite foodie up for a cooking class of some kind as a present. The class schedules are posted well in advance, so no one has to know you waited until the last minute before a gift exchange to enroll.
Stores like Sur La Table and other specialty food stores often offer cooking classes at their shops after business hours, and if you live in or near a big city, you should be able to find a cooking school in your area. These businesses offer recreational classes (i.e. not full scale cooking programs) all the time on a variety of subjects, from sushi-making to bread-baking. They typically run anywhere from 1-4 hours and usually offer hands-on instruction on whatever topic is being discussed. Look for something that is a little unusual, like a caramel-themed class for someone who likes to bake, or a Tuscan cooking and wine pairing class for someone who loves Italian food. There are often kids classes available, as well.
If you’re having trouble finding cooking classes in your area, you can always turn to bulletin board sites like Craigslist, where local instructors often advertise, or to a website like Chow, where chowhounds in your town might have already checked out the local classes and can give you tips on picking a good one.
Once you’ve signed up (and yes, you should sign yourself up to go with your friend or family member, too!), just wrap up a nice card with the date and the description of the class and you’ll have something that will be a lot more memorable than a generic gift card.