Gift Ideas for a Lovable, Grumpy Dad

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Age: 71

Place: Idaho

Relationship: father

From the gift-giver:

My dad is the quintessential grumpy old man, and a total redneck in his politics and proclivities. He is a crass, badly dressed, Fox-News-watching, red-meat eater. I used to buy him The Far Side calendar every year and go through it and write him notes, and in the years since it went out of production I've tried to find a worthy substitute, but all have fallen short. He likes baseball, trains (especially model railroads), bluegrass and country music, the occasional beer, Navy memorabilia (he's a Vietnam vet), and things that feed his nostalgia for West Virginia. He is sentimental and likes the unapologetically schmaltzy. He reads a lot of spy novels. He is crazy about animals (especially cats), and they are crazy about him. He worked for the Forest Service for many years and loves all things outdoorsy as well.

Any gift they’ve loved?

He loved The Far Side page-a-day calendar, and he loved a Russian Blue cat that was given to him by his favorite former boss. (He actually wound up getting another cat that looks just like the one that was given to him, and he even gave it the same name, Spooky.)

We recommend: Omaha Steaks Steak Club ($69-$119)

You ever notice how nobody sends mail anymore? (I am channeling grumpiness in the spirit of your dad). Getting mail at all in this digital world is exciting—getting a carton of meat in the mail even more so. Omaha Steaks will do just that. Depending on your budget, you could recreate the year-long fun of your gift with one of their Steak Clubs—new steaks quarterly, or every month. Or you could do a one-time shipment of some filet mignon (or whatever kind of steak he likes—you can also make your own combo), and cook them together, so the gift includes an experience, too. (By the way, the steaks come packed in dry ice, so for a real experience, put the dry ice in the sink and run some water on it—your kitchen will fill with fog, which is pretty fun. Not that I’ve ever done that.)

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