Chicago Food Swap: Almost Like Hanukkah!

Yesterday my sister and I drove to Forest Park so we could participate in the Chicago Food Swap. It was the second swap that co-organizers Vanessa and Emily have put on so far, but my first time going. Sadly, I missed the first one due to having other plans. I’ve been looking forward to this one for two months.

Great news: it was fabulous! We had a great time.

The way a food swap works (apparently this is huge in Los Angeles, by the way) is that everyone brings home-grown or homemade items, packaged so that people can pick them up and look at them. When you sign in, you get a little form for each of the items you brought: you can bring a bunch of one thing like I did (chocolate truffles), or you can bring fewer amounts of a couple different things like Julesie did (cheddar scallion monkey breads and sugar cookie bars). On the form you write your name, what your item is, what the ingredients are, and suggested uses. At the bottom of the form there are spaces for people to write their names, should they want to trade their items for yours.

The first 45 minutes are spent walking around, examining items and tasting samples when provided (it’s not mandatory). During that time, you write your name down on the other traders’ forms so they know who to look for when it’s time to negotiate.

Then the real fun begins, when you walk around trading with others. There is no obligation to trade with anyone, and you don’t necessarily expect to get one of everything anyway. (Yesterday’s food swap had around twenty participants!) The trading part was so exciting, it really did feel like Hanukkah.

After the trading was over, we packed up our goodies, said goodbye, and went back to the car, already talking about what we’d make for the next time.

Thanks so much to Vanessa and Emily (or Vanessily, as I shall now call them) for their work in setting this up, as well as Pretty Little Things, the wonderful little store in Forest Park that hosted us. They feature unique, handmade, and upcycled gifts: great shopping!

Here are some pictures from yesterday, including my “haul”.

Vanessa and her daughter brought roasted tomato ketchup and challah.


Someone brought these Hostess cupcake knockoffs, which were adorable.


There were three different kinds of jelly from this trader, jalapeno jelly, raspberry jalapeno jelly, and apricot jalapeno jelly.


Pears in honey syrup, blood orange curd, and Limoncello!


Lemon curd, Julesie’s sugar cookie bars and cheddar scallion monkey bread, and my chocolate truffles:


Peanut brittle and English Toffee (one of my all-time faves!!) from a professional candy maker:


I had to take a picture of Emily’s daughter’s form because it was so darn cute. Very good AND sugary. (P.S. I signed up to trade with her but her very good and sugary cookies went like hotcakes!)


Here are Vanessa and Emily (Vanessily), holding their creations:


Lastly, here’s what I brought home:

Cranberry Orange Bread
Chocolate Banana Jam
Cranberry/Rhubarb/Orange Jam
Curry Powder
Pears in Honey Syrup
Jalapeno Jelly
Sourdough Bread
English Toffee, two of them. (What?)


Are you in the Chicago area? Follow the Chicago Food Swap Facebook page to stay on top of where and when the next swap will be. I hope to see you there!


  • Toni

    OMGosh, I am in total LOVE with this idea! Like…I want to start one here tomorrow. LOL This is such a fab sounding event. Not just because it’s food, but that it seems everyone was very creative in bringing high quality/unique items for trade. (meaning, it’s not your typical potluck haha) I’m glad you had such a good time. I really hope they choose a date soon so I can pencil it in before anything else gets scheduled. 🙂 Thanks for CCing me!

  • Debbie Howe

    I was at this swap with my Jalapeno Jellies. It was great!! We all had a lot of fun and I was able to try so many new things and talk with other foodies like me. I can’t wait to hear about the next date set. Hope to see you there. I know I have at least one other friend that wants to participate in the next round.