“What can we bring?” The much-asked question to a host. As a host it can be hard to delegate, you don’t want your guests to go to any trouble, and it’s your show after all. As a guest, I find it impossible to turn up empty-handed, even if instructed otherwise. Every host is happy with a gift of genuine gratitude. However, if you feel the need to offer a more tangible gesture of appreciation or the occasion asks for it - a celebration, a reunion, or it’s simply the festive season - here are some ideas. They each pair something consumable to share with something longer-lasting.
For a gentle, informal contribution, dips are a good choice as they last well and can be gobbled up in the following days after your gathering if they don’t end up on the table on the day. Decant smoky baba ganoush and nutty hummus into small bowls or cups as your offering. If you are put in charge of dessert you can present your crème caramel or chocolate mousse in pretty decorative ramekins or custard cups for the host to keep after the meal.
Some hosts like to be in control of and produce the entire many-coursed meal. In this case, what you give can be something to sample at the end, so it won’t interfere with the flavour balance your host has planned. In a covered butter dish you can hide a bundle of individually wrapped chocolate truffles – an alternative box of chocolates and to round off a dinner sweetly. If you want to completely avoid a foodie gift, swap out the truffles for a beautifully packaged bar of handmade soap instead.
Huge country style bouquets give our handcrafted Irish pottery Medium Jugs another beautiful life.
A jug is a wonderfully elegant vessel not only for water or cordial but also as a vase. For a more personal touch assemble your own bunch of flowers from the garden. If you only have a few blooms, sprigs of greenery will fill it out and are a pretty contrast to the floral colours in the bouquet. Depending on how far you’re travelling it’s possible to keep the flowers reasonably fresh and to avoid wilting by wrapping the base of the stalks in wet kitchen paper during the journey.
Tea for two
This idea is one of my favourites and was given to me by a long-lost friend who came to stay. Choose a pair of cups or mugs to go together with all the ingredients needed to make an indulgently fancy hot chocolate (we had extra chocolate for sprinkling) with marshmallows or a heartening hot toddy. You and your host can enjoy some late-evening chatter over a cosy nightcap come the evening. When you’ve said your goodbyes the gifts that expressed gratitude will enable those feelings of connection to endure, memories to be conjured and more nightcaps to be drunk.