The best and worst gift I ever gave my mom on Mother's Day was a hamburger patty press. • It was a lousy present for mostly obvious reasons, not the least of which was we almost never had hamburgers. I was about 10 and bought it with my own money. • Over the years, it has taken on the sheen of a prized possession. It is legend in the family for quirkiness — its and mine. Mom still has the 40-year-old patty press in a kitchen drawer. • I treasure the present for what it taught me about being a mother. Mom opened that metal trifle like it was diamond earrings. Even on her day, she was thinking about others. • Sunday is Mother's Day. It's difficult to beat a heartfelt present from a child, but here are some gift suggestions for moms who like to cook and those who feel they just have to. If these ideas don't strike your fancy, there is always the burger press. Or reservations.
Janet K. Keeler, Times lifestyles editor
1. The top-selling cookbook of 2008: Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics (Clarkson Potter, $35) plus a couple of her cake mixes is a great gift. Find the mixes at Williams-Sonoma stores (various bay area locations) or Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium (2080 Badlands Drive, Brandon).
2. A cool lunch bag to carry to work and the promise of packing her lunch every Monday. Try to keep the promise, at least through Father's Day.
3. The book Julie & Julia by Julie Powell (Little, Brown and Co., $20.95) and a promise to take Mom to the movie when it opens Aug. 7. Meryl Streep plays Julia Child. Amy Adams is Julie, the woman who made all 524 recipes in the classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking and got famous by blogging about it.
4. Lots of chocolate: Candy, gelato, truffles, cupcakes, cakes, brownies, liqueurs. You name it; the chocoholic mom will love it. Make or buy.
5. A heavy-duty standup mixer, such as a KitchenAid, which comes in some lovely colors including red, pink and cobalt blue. You can't go wrong with classic white. Other coveted equipment: food processor and ice cream maker. Or a heavy-duty blender. Summer is coming, and that means daiquiris!
6. Magazine subscriptions Taste of Home or Everyday Food for the homestyle cook; Food Network magazine (or Everyday With Rachael Ray or Cooking With Paula Deen) for the celebrity chef junkie; Saveur for the cook who likes to travel; Gourmet for the sophisticated foodie mom; or Cook's Illustrated for the mother who wants it done just right.
7. Stone crabs: Stone crab season ends May 15. Buy some jumbo claws (about $15 a pound for two claws; $11 per pound for 3 to 4) and some beautiful crackers to get at the sweet meat. Celebrate mom and the best of Mother Nature, too.
8. Have her knives sharpened: Look in the phone book or on the Internet for places that sharpen scissors; they usually do knives. Craft and fabrics stores, such as Jo-Ann, often sharpen scissors, too.
9. A gift basket of cheese & wine: Make it yourself with cheeses from a specialty shop. Ask for help with selections and get wine to match. Good places to look for cheese: Whole Foods (Tampa), Fresh Market (Tampa and Clearwater), Mazzaro Italian Market (St. Petersburg), Castellano & Pizzo Italian Gourmet (Tampa). Get the wine there, too.
10. Cooking classes for you and her: Some offered locally in the next month include French cooking, party menus, breakfast specialties and tropical cuisines.
11. Wrangle her stained and dog-eared recipes into plastic sleeves and place in a big three-ring binder. Include your special memories, touching or tragic, with the recipes.
12. Mail-order food-of-the-month memberships: Harry & David does fruit (harryanddavid.com). Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Mich., does cheese, bread, sweets and more (zingermans.com). Williams-Sonoma does croissants, three months worth (williams-sonoma.com).
13. An apron. There are cool ones out there that will make Mom look like a pro. Forget the half-frilly thing that evokes June Cleaver or Donna Reed. Think Iron Chef.
14. Clean her oven. For an electric stove, replace burner pans with new ones, an inexpensive way to spruce up an old range.
15. For a grandmother who visits often, buy a beautiful cup and saucer to keep at your house. She can use it for coffee or tea whenever she's there.
16. Certificate for a make-and-take meal assembly session. Some places to look for include Dinner Done!, Let's Eat!, Super Supper, Foodies, Weekday Gourmet and Get Cookin' Now. Check the phone book or Internet for others. Many offer cooking classes or will assemble the meals for pickup or delivery.
17. New baking sheets and the award-winning BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking by Shirley O. Corriher (Scribner, $40).
18. Breakfast in bed: Vow to do the dishes and wash the sheets of crumbs.
19. A cooking/recipe application for her iPhone or iPod Touch. Epicurious has a new one that allows mobile access of its bank of 25,000 recipes. Go to itunes.com/appstore.
20. Family recipes. Call your mom's mother (or mother-in-law) and get recipes for favorite family recipes. Make them for a special meal.