Food has always been used to express love, thanks, condolences and sentiments less easily put into words. Likely, because it speaks to us in ways both simple and deeply elemental.
Consider how a bite of watermelon can lightning-fast transport you to splintery picnic table, or the curb of your neighbor’s house, with roller skates on your feet. How one cool swallow of wine can return you to a nook of a restaurant in Detroit or Cinque Terre, or a tartare spread on crisp toast.
M.F.K. Fisher, a food writer’s food writer, once wrote, “Our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others.”
We’ve spent the last few months re-designing our gift box lineup, so that whatever you need to say, there’s a perfect gift, at the right price, to say it.
These boxes feature handmade selections from our kitchen and bakery, where we’re guided by ingredients that are seasonal, often local, responsibly grown and above all the most delicious we can find. A simple example is our peanut butter. We buy fresh peanuts from a single farm in Virginia, roast them ourselves and then grind and jar them by hand.
And we hold our vendors to the same high standards.
Pick up a jar of honey in a grocery store and the small print is likely to say it’s from one and/or two countries or even continents, so unsure are they of the source of something you’re supposed to eat and feed to the people you love. We take pride — and comfort, and delight — in knowing exactly where the honeys on our shelves were made, whether it’s the Gran Paradiso National Park in northern Italy or Bed Stuy, Brooklyn.
We sell products that stand on their own as some of the best in the world. And that embody the small companies and individuals who make them.
Candice Ross was a trained architect in New York who loved the creativity in her work but not the complications that surrounded it. She founded Stagg Jam & Marmalade, which she named after her grandfather, who she describes as immensely capable and refreshingly focused on purely the things that matter most to him.
“Community is such a huge thing for me. I think that comes from that I’m from a small, tight-knit community in Louisiana, and I’m kind of trying to create that here,” she told us on the phone recently, with a little burst of laughter.
She makes seasonal jams with organic ingredients, in flavors she wants to eat, and is addressing real cravings.
“When you make something, people really want to be a part of the creating. … Caring about a product is so connecting,” she said. “You’re working with farmers and supporting them, too. And that’s what I love most. … You have the product and it’s a good product and then you share it and it becomes this kind of community effort, from the farmers to the producers, to the person who buys it. It’s kind of great.”
While Stagg Jam is a year old, Giorgio Cravero’s family has been making Parmigiano Reggiano for five generations. (His son Giacomo, now a teenager fascinated by cheese, is likely to be the sixth.)
From a selection of 355 dairies, the G. Cravero company selects wheels of Parmigiano from just three and ages them to perfection, using techniques passed through the generations.
“Food is soul. You have it or not,” Giorgio told us recently, standing at our cheese counter.
A small dairy, he added, might create just six wheels of Parmigiano a day.
“Not to be pretentious,” he offered cautiously, “but we target the very best. The cheese has to be the best available in Italy. … I have to drive back to Bra from Modena thinking about the farmers being happy … Because their life is tough. They make the cheese seven days a week, and the industrialization of Parmigiano is trouble for them. … We pay them a bonus, truly, to keep them alive and satisfied and to keep going and make that cheese.”
We adore Giorgio, and we’re proud to support a company that helps to keep alive a tradition and maintain a standard. But our business is built on our absolute love for being able to pack a cheese, or a jam, into a gift box, or to hand it to customer, knowing that it’s the highest quality that they could possibly eat and share.
Our aim with our gift boxes is to give our customers that same confidence.
Whether it’s a company saying, “Thanks for doing business with us,” or a person telling her parents, “Happy holidays, I love you.” They can know that tremendous care and intention went into the preparation and selection and packaging of every item in that box. And they can feel as good about giving it as someone soon will about receiving it.