Student Selection: Give the gift of cooking this holiday season


I am a firm believer that everything we do to celebrate the holidays leads back to the kitchen. This is especially true for me when it comes to the spirit of giving.

So, as you stress over the perfect gift for the people on your list who are hard to shop for, I recommend giving what our very biology loves: the gift of tasty foods.

From cookie exchanges, to making hot cocoa for siblings after playing in the Minnesota snow to creating the ultimate Christmas feast, I am basically in the kitchen for the entire month of December. Beyond being the hub for the Pinterest-worthy holiday activities, my kitchen is also my workshop for the greatest gift I can give during the season: my cooking.

While there are some gifts that I cannot create in the oven, like the Andy Grammer tickets I bought my sister Mackenzie last year, I am proudest of the ones I can. One of my favorite feelings is watching someone I love enjoy something I spent hours creating just for them. My idea of pure joy is knowing they can taste the love that I put into it. Food made with love is one of the oldest clichés in the book, but it is also one of the truest.

My favorite treat to make my friends is truffles. More specifically, I make them candy-bar truffles. Nothing says “I love you” like chocolate, and when you are able to transform someone’s favorite childhood treat into a bite-sized morsel, you are destined to make their spirits bright.

My family enjoys their fair share of chocolate, but baking one dessert for them would not make the day any different from any other day I am home. Instead, I give them the gift of our Christmas dinner. This present is technically for everyone in my family, but it is especially for my mom. After six kids and over 28 years of marriage, my mom has spent countless hours in our tiny kitchen. I love that I can take responsibility away from her, and I know that she appreciates it too. It is my definition of a win-win situation.

The past few years, I have woken up by 7 a.m. to begin creating the feast. My family starts the morning off with my grandma’s overnight caramel rolls. Then, we have some type of egg bake for brunch and we snack on stocking-stuffers until dinner.

One dish that is always on our menu is cookie salad. It is ironic, as the name entails, and while some might consider it a dessert, my family serves it as a side at dinner. Imagine whipped cream folded into vanilla pudding, sprinkled with mandarin oranges and topped with fudge-striped cookies. That is a cookie salad and yes, it is as perfect as it sounds.

I was not able to go home to Minnesota this Thanksgiving, so you could say that I am slightly ecstatic for winter break to come. I do not think I have ever been more excited and inspired to return to our claustrophobic four-burner, one-oven kitchen.

I hope I have inspired you as well (or at least made you hungry enough) to giving the gift of love and food this holiday season. The “I can’t bake” excuse is not going to work anymore. There is an infinite number of recipes that do not require one ounce of baking. If you have chocolate, cereal and a microwave, you’ve got one delicious cookie. If that does not appeal to you, Pinterest and Google are always there to save the day.

In the end, it does not matter who provides the food. As long as you provide the love, you have a recipe for a beautiful and memorable holiday season.

Mallory Diekmann is a junior in agricultural communications and journalism.