the best gift i ever gave

The Best Valentine’s Gift I Ever Gave My Boyfriend Was a Branding Iron

Even in February, my boyfriend couldn’t resist meat charred with his initials.

I’m not a big Valentine’s Day person. My birthday is six days before the feast of Saint V, and the holiday’s Hallmark-induced romance sets off my cynic radar more than slightly. Last year, in lieu of a steak dinner and bedsheets smeared with rose petals (why is that a thing?), my special friend and I spent the evening in the company of Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland (aliases Nick Kroll and John Mulaney) prior to their Broadway debut. But, romance squeamishness notwithstanding, I can never resist a gifting opportunity and am proud to say I’ve become something of an expert.

The best present I ever got my boyfriend was, yes, a steak brander. In the depths of February, you can still re-create the carefree days of summer, when the sear of meat and condiment selections are among the only concerns. My boyfriend loved the personalization of a monogrammed steak brander — he just heated up the end of the iron over an open flame (like a stovetop burner), and after ten minutes, it was good to go. It fulfills the duties of any great gift — he knows that time and effort went into it (and that I’m not re-gifting something I received and didn’t like) — and he really does use it. We’ve now emblazoned his initials on everything from ribs to rib eyes, and even busted out the brander for cast-iron cooked burgers (the patty’s initials were covered by the bun, but he liked it so much, he branded them anyway).

Not that my boyfriend’s grilling skills needed too much honing, but this cookbook offered truly helpful meat-preparing tips, and also ideas for sauces and spice rubs to whip up that we’d never thought of. In the depths of February, it got us longing for all the grilling that summer promised, and we came away with recipes we continue to cook on rotation (for the record, the Memphis-style rib recipe is insane).

If you or your boyfriend aren’t meat eaters (or if the prospect of steaks charred with your initials doesn’t particularly appeal), these other gifts I’ve given have been hits, too.

In my experience with men’s gifting, practicality trumps cool. And most boyfriends could use better socks. Nice Laundry’s offerings come in a range of hues and patterns, from sensible to multicolored camouflage, and pretty much everything in between. The socks arrive in a chic box, and guarantee your gift will be appreciated each day. Also, I bought myself a box too, because … love thyself.

For something on the more whimsical side, Sock Panda will create a nice monthly subscription box with socks covered in sharks or a Mondrian pattern.

With the exception of vacation, traveling often requires packing ties (think weddings, work trips, and family photos). This lovely leather case makes tie travel easy and wrinkle-free and even has a spot for clips, cufflinks, and collar stays. Monogramming is free, as is gift wrapping.

Okay, so full disclosure: This was a Galentine’s Day gift. Not that my significant other isn’t a chocolate fan (he’s been known to polish off an entire sleeve of truffles while my back is turned), but truthfully he wouldn’t appreciate the effect of having pictures printed on pieces of chocolate the way my best friends would.

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I Gave My Boyfriend a Branding Iron for Valentine’s Day