Selecting birthday gifts can be tricky. If the gift is just commonly nice, it can appear perfunctory, or worse, a symbol of a social obligation. Genuine birthday gifts demand thoughtful consideration of the recipient and creativity of the giver. The gift must match some interest or feature of the birthday person. I know, this is a lot of pressure on the giver. You may dread picking out birthday gifts for people because in the past your gifts have been ill-received and misunderstood. You had meant well. You did try to choose the right gift, but BAM! – Blasted again by wan smiles of thanks as your gift is received and placed off to the side. You may be ready to say, “That’s it! From now on everybody gets socks and underwear.”

But don’t give up yet. I have a fail-safe suggestion. GIVE FOOD.   That’s right. Just like socks and underwear, everyone needs food. Plus, nearly everyone LIKES food. Even those people who in the past liked it too much and are now restricting their food intake, are still happy to receive food gifts. Choices of delicious food festively packaged abound. You can easily show your thoughtfulness by selecting the particular sweets, treats and staples you know your friend enjoys. You can’t go wrong.

If your friend is a middle-aged woman, your gift-selecting gets even easier. Give a birthday cake or pie. Why? Because she will likely not receive one from anyone else. For many of us lucky enough to have had loving mothers, the most prominent birthday memory is of mom carrying in the birthday cake, leading the family in a chorus of “Happy Birthday”, and then clapping and smiling as we blew out the candles. Well, for many middle-aged women, mom is likely either out-of-state, out-of-life, or too weak to carry the cake. That’s when friends become crucial. A true friend steps up to the plate and delivers the cake. The friend’s smile and cheerful wishes bring alive the childhood magic of birthdays. And the middle-age birthday girl becomes less reluctant, perhaps quietly happy, to celebrate one more year. We all need to know that someone is glad we were born. This appreciation is the finest, truest and most thoughtful gift we can ever give, – or receive.

I was lucky last week; women friends gave me a birthday cake, no candles though, and that was fine with me. This week was my best friend’s birthday. Her mother lives out-of-state, and her house is filled with sons and a husband. I was pretty sure that she would not have a birthday cake if I didn’t provide one. Last week my daughter had made a chocolate cake in joint celebration of our birthdays, but I wanted my good friend to have something special on her actual birthday. I chose to give her a cherry pie.

It was an easy choice. Last summer I’d been in a pie-making frenzy and had given her a cherry pie just for the fun of it. She told me that she had loved it! In fact, she had eaten the whole pie, except for a small piece which she had given to her husband. That cherry pie had been the perfect gift for her.

So this week I baked another. Of course, because I’m me, I had to mess with perfection. I had to add the thrill of uncertainty to the baking and use a different cherry pie recipe. When I gave her the pie I asked her to tell me which pie she preferred. Yesterday she called with her answer. She had enjoyed them both. Again, she had given her husband only a small piece. She said she’d have to ask him if one recipe was better than another. She said she’s not picky about home-made cherry pie. She just LIKES THEM! And I know, she likes me.

Click on “continue reading…” for this cherry pie recipe taken from the cookbook, Cherries Galore: A Door County cherry recipe collection.

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