The Slightly Cursed White Elephant Gift Guide

Bon Appétit

White elephant gifts tend to be an afterthought—this is the one gift exchange that provides an excuse to slack off, and people really do. At best, white elephant participants carelessly wade into the swamp of intentionally funny gag gifts and wacky doodads that the internet sells in abundance, opting for things like silly socks, pickle-shaped bandages, cutesy fridge magnets, or other gimmicks that aren’t actually that funny. At worst, white elephant gift givers use the event as an opportunity offload unwanted junk in their house onto one of their friends or coworkers.

But this guide is aiming for something different. Something better. The best white elephant gifts are things that are, frankly, a little bit cursed. What I mean by that is items that have some sort of disarming, uncanny quality to them that genuinely catches people by surprise, which, in turn, makes for a better game of white elephant. Intentionally funny gag gifts are to be expected, so bringing something that is unintentionally funny is way more satisfying—it just requires a bit more creativity.

That’s why I compiled this list of slightly cursed white elephant gift ideas to help you bring the weird to your upcoming white elephant gift exchange. There is a general food theme, because this is Bon Appétit, after all. But each item was selected specifically because I thought it contained some level of cursedness. There’s no official rubric I used to determine this cursedness, but I’ll go into more detail about each item and why it fits the bill below.

Tin of cow udder moisturizer (that’s great for hands too)

Originally, dairy farmers in Vermont used Bag Balm to prevent chapped udders in the brutal New England winter. People have been using it on their own hands for just as long. This is perfect for the person in your family who always gets stuck on dish duty.

Bag Balm Vermont’s Original Moisturizing Lotion

A knife for a child

Research shows that it is actually a totally great idea to give knives to children, but that doesn’t make it any less disconcerting to think about.

Opinel Le Petit Chef Knife Set

Alarmingly flavored cereal

When this box showed up at the office a few months ago, those who dared to taste its contents reacted with shock and concern. The cereal is coated with an additive with a surprisingly potent cooling effect. And no, it isn’t menthol, it’s something else apparently.

Kellogg’s ICEE Mixed Berry Breakfast Cereal

Threateningly tall candles

Taper candles? Totally normal and nice. Tall taper candles that loom over your head at dinner? Still nice, but not so normal…

24 Inch Tall Ivory Taper Candles Set

A sensible household essential

This classic tome by 19th century cooking pioneer Fannie Farmer features beloved favorites like Wheat Mush with Egg, Beef Tea, and a warm and fuzzy recipe dubbed Invalid Muffins—just the thing to bring back fond memories of your Victorian workhouse days.

Food and Cookery for the Sick and Convalescent

A fun safety reminder!

Did you know that a surprising amount of vintage dishes and glassware contain lead? You can write that on a little folded-up note and tape it to the bottle to really commit to the Debbie Downer bit.

Doomsday butter

When this is all wrapped up, people might think this is a bulk jar of peanut-butter-filled pretzels or trail mix from Costco. Little do they know that it’s actually doomsday butter. Jokes aside, you can actually do a lot of cool things with dehydrated butter. People love it for baking, for enriching sauces and gravies, and for making homemade popcorn seasoning.

Hoosier Hill Farm Real Butter Powder

EDM collab air fryer

What’s better than a regular air fryer? An air fryer made in collaboration with famous helmet-wearing EDM DJ Marshmello. What’s that? I can’t hear you over this gnarly sizzling! If this is overkill, and it probably is, you can opt for his cookbook instead.

CRUX x Marshmello 3.0 QT Digital Air Fryer

Radioactive juicer

If you thought lead was the only problem with vintage cookware, think again! Nothing could be more “Barbenheimer” than a vintage radioactive citrus juicer. (Note: while it isn’t a good idea to use this for food, it’s totally safe to have around…)

*Click click click click*

This one is a good one-two punch with the juicer above, but you can also use it to test the radioactivity of bananas, Brazil nuts, or sometimes even tap water!

Taste-altering berries

Eating a miracle berry will temporarily alter your taste buds and cause sour things to taste sweet, among other changes. Which is fun, but also unsettling if you’ve never experienced it before.

Miracle Berries by Snozzberry Farm

Nut butter for dogs that you can also eat if you want

This peanut butter is really good. I know this from experience. Any dog, or person, would be lucky to have a taste.

Big Spoon Roasters Wag Butter Peanut Butter for Dogs

This thing!

Does this actually deodorize things? Is there a soul behind that thousand-yard stare ? Will it start whispering in the middle of the night? All good questions, all good questions…

Banana vessel

You know the situation. You find yourself absolutely struggling to finish your banana and just wish you had some way to, I don’t know, hook the half-eaten remains onto a carabiner and attach it to a backpack or water bottle.

Internet meme beans

The reason these beans are slightly cursed entirely has to do with this long-running popular subreddit r/beansinthings, in which people put these beans in things, all for a good laugh.

Pulpy murder mystery food fiction

There’s a thriving subgenre of food-themed murder mystery books. In this one, a caterer/homicide investigator named Goldy gets to the bottom of a suspicious death at a cosmetics company banquet.

Killer Pancake (Goldy Culinary Mysteries, Book 5)

A beloved treat from Northern Europe

Not trying to yuck anybody’s yum here, but a lot of people in the world love salty licorice. But even the biggest salty licorice lovers will admit to it being a somewhat challenging candy.

Katjes Salzige Heringe Salted Licorice

The endgame of the tinned fish trend

Listen, I love tinned fish as much as the next person but this really feels like a bridge too far. Or, maybe it’s cute? I don’t know anymore. Someone will probably want this, though.

The pumpernickel with the couple that’s about to f*#& on it

What is so sexy about pumpernickel bread? You’ll have to ask these two…

Mestemacher Pumpernickel Bread

A snack with a commanding presence

A barrel of cheese balls is cursed not because of what it is, but because what it can turn people into. And what it can turn them into is ravenous cheese-ball-eating fiends, with powdery orange fingers and mustaches.

Custom food allergy merch

As someone with a shellfish allergy, the idea of wearing clothes proudly announcing this fact is both baffling and hilarious. This shirt in particular also takes it to a kind of winky-slash-sexy route, which is even weirder. Of course, ideally, you’d bring this to a white elephant where you know someone with a food allergy will be in attendance.

Allergic to Shellfish Shirt

Just some classic gag humor

I make an exception for practical joke gifts when they take the form of a beautiful overturned fruit cocktail.

Just Dough It Fake Spilled Fruit Cocktail

A grow kit with a mind of its own

This gift is cursed because one time I had one of these and I left it in a closet and forgot about it and found weeks later that it had burst out of the packaging and started growing entirely on its own.

Back to the Roots Organic Mini Mushroom Grow Kit

This deep-cut Quadratini flavor

Cheese Quadratini is an exceptionally elite and rare Quadratini flavor. It’s salty, sweet, and an ideal party food that will take you by surprise with its complex flavor.

Loacker Quadratini Sweet Cheese Wafer Cookies

A cruel simulacrum of desire

There’s a brilliant duality to the mini Le Creuset. It can serve as a taunting reminder of what one does not have, or you can conveniently keep salt in it.

Le Creuset Stoneware Mini Round Cocotte

“Help, I’m being baked alive!”

Pie birds may stir up nostalgia for some people. I’ve always found the way they look baking away in the oven—necks craned upward, mouths agape in horror while steam spews from them—to be a little disturbing.


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Author:Wilder Davies | Website:www.bonappetit.com

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