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For Christmas gifts, consider the obvious

Everyone is entitled to at least one Christmas peeve. Mine is popcorn.

Of course, I like popcorn as much as the next citizen. My complaint has to do with those popcorn gift packs, whose profit margins must be enormous. Ten dollars plus for a quantity that you can produce with one, or at most two, batches on a typical popper?

I mentioned this on Facebook, and a friend commented, “What does that stuff cost? Ten cents a silo?”

“You can probably get it cheaper than that,” I replied.

“Hey pal, you think that caramel and that cheese powder make themselves?” remarked another.

When two large packages arrived this morning, my son said, “My bet is that it’s either popcorn or apples.”

I was pleased, though not entirely surprised, to find that it was apples. Six Envy apples in prime condition, along with a pair of gloves, a beanie, and a small red tablecloth.

The package was a sample sent to me by Cristie Mather, vice president for food for Curious Plot. It’s a sample of a daily prize awarded on the Hallmark Channel’s Very Merry Giveaway (the grand prize is $10,000). Winners will also receive a duplicate prize to give to a friend.

Oh, and I forgot the mention the centerpiece of the gift: a fondue pot.

Fondue—now that’s something I haven’t had for years. I’m old enough, though, to remember when it was a chic dish, around 1970. Fondue sets were usually of the colors stylish then: persimmon orange or avocado green. (Remember the days when refrigerators were avocado green?)

True to the Envy theme, this set is bright red. It’s intended for apple fondue—dipping slices in warm caramel or chocolate sauce—although of course it could be used for any type. We’ll probably bring it out on Christmas Eve, when a couple of friends will be coming over and our sons will open their lavish gifts (a laptop and a PC5).

Although ours will more likely be the standard cheese fondue (must remind my wife, Nicole, that it really has to be Gruyère cheese).

I remember too La Fondue, a small Swiss-themed restaurant than for many years was one of the best places to get an economical sit-down meal in midtown Manhattan.

Anyway, this delightful gift reminded me of what a superb gift fruit is for Christmas. Nicole is going to send a Harry & David BB #:100679 package to her parents. It’s great for people in their eighties: they don’t need any more gewgaws or gadgets, and wine doesn’t always sit so well on the stomach at that age. They don’t have to find a permanent place to store the fruit, and there are few presents that are healthier.

I remember giving my late Aunt Martha a Harry & David Fruit of the Month club membership for Christmas one year; she was delighted when the package came every month.

Of course, there are any number of superb fruit packages on the market. For Christmas gift ideas, I have this to say to the produce industry: consider the obvious.

Richard Smoley, contributing editor for Blue Book Services, Inc., has more than 40 years of experience in magazine writing and editing, and is the former managing editor of California Farmer magazine. A graduate of Harvard and Oxford universities, he has published 12 books.