"On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, "A partridge in a pear tree."
Very sensible, and proof of how Christmas madness accelerates, that such an eminently thoughtful giftgiver was soon wrapping up lords a leaping and maids a milking. To help you keep wits about you as Christmas nears, here are suggestions for gifts to please the chef now (and you later).
Conran's, 3227 Grace St. NW, has canvas shopping totes in bright red, yellow or white ($13) which could hold an assortment of chutneys -- minted apple at $4.95, ginger $3.50, Indian fruit at $5.25, hot mango at $3.50 or $4.25. Add a log of goat cheese and you have the makings for a tasty spread of cheese and chutney.
If the tote is too expensive, pack your booty into one of the store's many, inexpensive baskets. Or buy a chef's apron (in blue and white stripes or red with Conran's logo for $6.50) and fill the pocket with dime-store packages of cheesecloth, with dishtowels, with all the practical things a chef is always short of.
At Georgetown Coffee, Tea & Spice, 1328 Wisconsin Ave. NW, put together a sampler of coffee beans, pack them with a hand grinder, a package of coffee sugar and as many Godiva chocolates as your pocketbook or waistline can afford.
Wrap two snail plates with canned snails, forks and snail holders, and a string of garlic. Fill snaptop bottles with a good vinegar and give them with a selection of herb plants from the Washington Cathedral Greenhouse, the makings of herb vinegars.
Cookbooks from historic houses like Shadows in Louisiana, Oatlands in Virginia and Cliveden in Pennsylvania are $2.50 each at the Preservation Shop, 1600 H St. NW. Add to them a copy of "Antique Desserts" ($2.95) and wrap them all up with a ceramic shortbread mold ($14) or stamps to press designs into Christmas cookies ($3.35).
The Design Store, 1258 Wisconsin Ave. NW, has a ready-made cook's Christmas stocking for $9.95, full of an assortment of kitchen gadgets.
There always is the gift of a cookbook with a not-so-subtle marker picking out the recipe you hope to be invited to try.
Elizabeth David has two hardbacks out this season, "English Bread and Yeast Cookery," $17.50, and an anthology of earlier books, "Elizabeth David Classics," incorporating Mediterranean Food, French Country Cooking and Summer Cooking, for $15.95.
The cook's encyclopedia, "The New Larousse Gastronomique" is $25. Alan Davidson tells you everything you ever wanted to know about "North Atlantic Seafood" for $15.95. Sweeter than sweet is "Maida Heater's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts," $15. For the chef who is starting out, there is Terence and Caroline Conran's "The Cookbook," at $30.
More specialized, but also cheaper, is Jane Grigson's "Making Sausages, Pates and Other Charcuteries," in paperback at $6.95. All of the above and many more are at the Kitchen Bazaar, 4455 Connecticut Ave. NW, or Seven Corner's Shopping Center.