Local food swaps have become a thing. What are they? Well, they’re all a little different but the basic idea is that a bunch of people from one community come together to trade homegrown or homemade items. After everyone arrives, time is spent walking around, checking out what everyone brought (and sometimes sampling), and then when it’s time to swap there’s a negotiating frenzy. Typically everyone goes home with a bag (or box) full of goodies, extremely happy about trying some new things.
My friends Emily Paster and Vanessa Druckman created the Chicago Food Swap a few years ago; the first one was held in December 2011. I was able to attend the second one in March 2012, and fell in love with the process. The subsequent times I’ve been able to be a part of the swap, I’ve watched it grow, I’ve seen many of the same swappers along with lots of newbies each time, and most importantly to my family, I’ve brought home some amazing things (salsas, jellies, cupcakes, produce, lemon curd, dressings, the list goes on!) that we probably wouldn’t have sampled otherwise.
Emily, who is now running the swap on her own, has just published the most beautiful book: Food Swap: Specialty Recipes for Bartering, Sharing & Giving.
The book is full of recipes, instructions on how to join a local food swap (or create your own!), and resources like gift tags and the swap cards that are so important for negotiations. One of my favorite parts of the book starts on page twelve: it’s the history of the Chicago Food Swap. It was exciting for me to read about something I’ve been a part of since the very beginning, and I’m just so proud of what Emily and Vanessa started, and now what Emily has accomplished.
If you’re local, you can catch Emily on her book tour TODAY at Sugar Beet Co-Op in Oak Park from 1-3 pm. She’ll be there signing books and being generally charming as usual. Go see her and pick up a book for yourself and maybe an extra one for a friend. As for me, I’ll be making a shopping list for some of my favorite recipes from the book because I need to bring some of that into my life.
Many thanks to Emily for sending me a book, and congratulations too: I’m so proud of (and happy for) you!!!