There's nothing more frustrating for the cook than having to stop midway through a recipe to wash the food processor. Or not having another large mixing bowl for the bread dough to rise in.
So, since practical, inexpensive gifts aren't easy to find, why not consider giving gifts that people already own -- such as a second bowl for their electric mixer, or another set of measuring spoons, or a second cherry pitter (no one should ever pit cherries alone!).
These are the kinds of seconds that will endear you to the kitchen-minded on your shopping list:
Bowls: Probably the most used bowls in today's kitchen are those for the food processor and the electric mixer. They are also among the most costly, ranging in price from about $15 to $50. Purchasing them requires a little advance work on your part; you must know the correct manufacturer and model number. Lightweight stainless mixing bowls, sold in sets of three and six, are considerably less expensive (about $6 to $18 a set), no less practical, and don't require model numbers.
Beaters and blades: As companions to the bowls, think about giving another set of beaters or blades (so your friends can whip cream then beat egg whites without washing in between). Again, you'll need the manufacturer and model number of the processor or mixer. Useful as another set of beaters may be, you don't want to buy a pair that doesn't fit. Prices run from about $5 to $25.
Strainers: No cook ever has enough strainers in the right sizes. There are a multitude to choose from, ranging in size from very small to the quite large French drum sieves called tamis. Most are in the $3 to $6 range. One very useful strainer few people own is the small, coarse mesh type that sells for about $3.
Spatulas and spoons: Rubber spatulas are inexpensive, about $3 a set, and always welcome in excess. Give other the very small thin type, or the large commercial size. Wooden spoons, particularly the ones with short handles for easy handling, or with long handles to stir large pots of soup, are a good gift idea. Best idea of all, though, is the flat wooden oval-shaped spatula with rounded edges that get into the corners of saucepans easily and that can be scraped clean on the side of the pot (no identation to hold the sauce). Wooden spoons and spatulas range from about 75 cents to $2.
Knives: The serious cook always needs another knife. Consider the inexpensive small serrated knives called tomato slicers, or the inexpensive serrated bread knives widely available (about $4 and $8 respectively). At the high end of the knife market are the finest quality large cook's knives selling for about $65. Don't think about them. Instead, look at the 6-inch cook's knife (about $20) that is one of the most valuable utility knives in the kitchen, and one many good cooks don't yet own, as large cook's knives are more commonly advocated by cooking school teachers.
Potholders: Potholders are like blue jeans. You never really need another pair, but they're nice to have anyway. Perhaps a pair of five-finger kitchen mitts, which are safer than regular squares, is in order (from $2 to $20).
Measuring cups and spoons: Another set of measuring cups or spoons always has a place in the kitchen. One very handy size is the large liquid measuring cup, perhaps in 6-to-8-cup capacity (about $1.50 to $7).
Blender jars: Another jar for the blender, perhaps one made of stainless, is particularly useful for people who make daiquiries or smoothies. Prices range from about $6 to $25, depending on the manufacturer and whether the jars are glass or stainless.
Cutting boards: Why another cutting board? Because most people only own the cheap and durable kind for the kitchen. Consider a small, fine cutting board that could be used for sending a loaf of hot bread to the table (about $10 to $30).
Vegetable peelers: The very inexpensive vegetable peelers, the swivel-bladed kind sold in most supermarkets, are the best. They dull quickly and rust almost as fast, so they need frequent replacing, and it is precisely this kind of kitchen tool that most cooks just never get around to replacing.
Cherry pitter: These inexpensive little gadgets are nearly impossible to find in August when cherries are most abundant; and when most cooks finally do find them, they forget to buy two. As mentioned earlier, no one should ever pit cherries alone.