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Food blogger Anna Hedworth (aka The Grazer) expounds the joys of homemade food gifts for Easter, summer, birthdays, whenever…

No celebration is complete without cake. At this time of year, Simnel is the one of choice, and apparently, the tradition of cakes for special occasions goes back to the Ancient Romans, who served pancakes with nuts and honey for birthdays. 

Traditions differ around the world, but they mostly involve the giving of a sweet cake. The Chinese serve lotus paste-filled buns shaped and decorated to look like peaches. In Western Russia they serve fruit pies with a birthday greeting carved into the crust.

Swedish birthday cake is a pound cake decorated with marzipan and the national flag, while the Dutch give fruit tarts topped with whipped cream.

Only the Koreans appear to have diverted from the tradition, offering seaweed soup to celebrate birthdays (erm, lovely!).

Beyond the traditional cake, it seems food gifts are enjoying a resurgence. A home-made food gift is generous and at the same time appropriate for these austere times.

Whether a cake, a hamper or a little jar of pickle, it is always gratefully received, and what better way to say happy birthday than with chocolates, biscuits, even a jar of potted meat?

Easter, Mother’s Day, birthdays… food has a role to play in most celebrations, so extending that to gifts is an obvious move.

I made Christmas gift hampers this year which included spiced apple pickle, bread and butter pickle, cardamom chocolate truffles, potted duck, nutty granola… Okay, I got a bit carried away, but setting up the gift production line was an education and a lot of fun.

It wasn’t just the cooking, but also the packaging and presentation; arranging food in lovely wooden hampers I found on eBay before distributing them to friends and family.

Homemade gifts are very now and websites like the handmade marketplace Etsy are the hottest things around.Homemade is no longer naff craft and these days there’s a world beyond glued together pin cushions, dropped stitch scarves, dead weight scones and bad jams. Homemade has really become quite smart in some quarters, and some of those jams now come with websites, nice graphics and cool packaging.

Food gifts often seem to focus on the sweet, but I’m very much a savoury person, so I tend to sway in the direction of a potted meat, pate, or pickles.

A work colleague gave everyone a lettuce as a take-home gift at an allotment party, and a lady told me she received an oven dish full of snails, foraged and prepped to cook from her 80-year-old French neighbour. Then there was the girl who told a friend about a Chinese meal she had enjoyed and the next day received a bag of chicken feet!

Inspired? Try the recipes here, or go hunting out a few of your own. Your friends will love you for it, and it’s far more satisfying than gift vouchers.

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