Food writer Nancy Leson talks about the best kitchen-worthy wedding presents she and her husband received 11 years ago.

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Recently, my husband and I had an animated discussion about our wedding gifts. In particular, those that found a home in our kitchen after we tied the knot back in ’97. “We really do use them all!” he said with a certain amount of incredulity as he walked back and forth in our galley kitchen pointing out his favorites.

Like our Aroma electric rice cooker. That one’s gotten a weekly workout since we first unwrapped it. He’s also fond of our oft-used serrated cheese knife with the varied-size holes meant to keep softer cheese from sticking to the blade. He even recounted the zillions of times we’d hoisted our stainless-steel oil canister filled with extra-virgin olive oil. (I’m so fond of that gift, I keep swearing I’m going to gift myself with a couple more — and use them to store the not-so-virginal olive oil and the Wesson.)

“What about those?” Mac said, nodding toward the big white pottery bowls we use as soup bowls each time I cook a big pot of bouillabaisse or steamed mussels. Those bowls also come in handy when we’re prepping anything that requires a lot of chopping: onions and peppers in this one, carrots and celery in that one. Opening our odds-and-ends drawer, I said, “Check these out! They’ve taken a licking but keep on ticking,” showing off a set of nesting measuring cups, a clutch of sturdy crab-crackers and our utilitarian ice-cream scoop. That scoop comes in handy when we pull out a less-used (but no less well-loved) wedding gift — a Krups La Glaciere electric ice-cream maker.

Mac was truly amazed we’ve gotten so much use out of so many of our wedding gifts, and when he said so, I put my hands on my hips and said, “Huh?” insisting, “There’s a reason we get so much use out of this stuff, pal. I chose every one of them!” Then I reminded him that he had no interest in going registry-shopping with me way back when. He was probably too busy doing the laundry or something.

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Instead, I called my best buddy, Abbie, and dragged her off to the Store Formerly Known as The Bon Marché, where we grabbed a computerized registry gun and walked around the houseware and giftware departments making like Charlie’s Angels: “Bang!” — I’ll take that Villeroy & Boch flatware, times eight! “Bang!” — Howzabout four of those nonstick mini tart pans? Whoa! Look at that hefty carving board. “Bang!” — gotta have it: surely someone will cough up $50. (Thanks, Terry Law!)

Note to all my dear gay male friends, who UPS’d Tiffany boxes filled with stunning cut-crystal bowls, valuable vases and a delicate ice bucket. For God’s sake! I’m a hippie! SOR-ry. I sent them back. Now, Frank, calm down: I kept the slender champagne flutes that came with your ice bucket, and you’ll be pleased to know that the elegant box the pair came in is now being used for Nate’s baby keepsakes — like the teensy outfit he wore home from the hospital and a pair of paper-wrapped chopsticks from I Love Sushi, where I took him when he was still a peanut in a car carrier. (What? You thought I’d take him to The Old Spaghetti Factory?)

I can still recall the day I waltzed though Sur La Table, clipboard and gift registry in hand, thrilled at the idea that the finely woven French-linen napkins that we still make such good use of today (and that I could ill afford back then) could be mine for the asking. Ditto for the expensive little cupboard prettily painted with peaches. That wedding gift so impressed my folk-art-loving sister and brother-in-law when they flew out for the wedding, they special-ordered us a ceramic lamp to match.

Of course, not everything we love and use was listed on a registry. An art-glass platter bought at a gallery on Granville Island gets heavy use as a cheese plate when we entertain. And the squat Indian candlestick holders sent by friends in Alaska grace our dinner table throughout the dark months.

But if there was one gift that keeps on giving, day in and day out, it’s our tall, brass Turkish-style pepper grinder. It’s stately, elegant, exotic and, above all, useful, and it was given to us by former Seattle Times restaurant critic John Hinterberger, who knew how much we both love to cook. What makes it so special is that it was exactly the kind of gift we didn’t know we wanted — but couldn’t live without. Which, come to think of it, is the definition of a great wedding gift.

Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838


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