This is not so much a question, as it is a memo.
It occurred to me that we often buy gifts based on our relatives and friends’ hobbies and interests. Sure if your mother has indicated that she likes a Shun Bob Kramer 8” knife, then surely you cannot go wrong based on her subtle or not-so-subtle suggestion, like this:
On the other hand, is it wise to simply buy an expensive knife or spices from the nearest Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table, simply because you know that person like kitchen knives or spices? In fact, won’t those items be the very things you don’t want to buy. Chances are that people who love cookware, bakeware, knives, spices, ... etc already know a lot about these topics and have good preference. For a person who is not well-verse in these areas, following a saleperson’s recommendation and spending a lot of money to purchase gifts can be counterproductive. Here are a few examples:
a) All-Clad is enormously popular in upscale kitchenware stores like Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table. Yet some cookware enthusiasts do not believe in cladded cookware. They find them to be relatively average in performance - no better than plain aluminum cookware.
b) Recently, Henckels has launched a beautiful Damascus knife for $1000 at Williams Sonoma, yet the responds from knife enthusiasts are rather poor. Here are the responds from our own website: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/769723
c) The spices and seasoning mixtures are nice, but many are considered as non-authentic, even the very expensive ones. This does not mean they are poor quality, but a person who is into spices may actually prefer the inexpensive spices from a local Indian store than those nicely packaged one.
d) Cookbook. Same thing. If you friends love to cook ethnic foods like Chinese or Indian cuisines, then they may already be a level or two above the cookbooks from typical stores.
So maybe we shouldn’t simply buy gifts based on the person’s interest. Maybe we should buy what we know about and not what they know about.