Friends, good day to you! We’ve been in absentia over here at FQF HQ for a few weeks now, as we’re in the trenches of selling our current miniature urban farm and deciding where we’re headed next. These sorts of grown-up activities are simply not for the faint of heart. This is our first home and therefore our first home sale, and the entire process has been much more challenging and elaborate and tricky and bittersweet than we imagined. But enough of all that! Let’s discuss delightful food-focused activities! How about food swaps?
What is a food swap, you might ask? Well, it’s an incredibly fun community event where a bunch of like-minded gardeners, canners, cooks, bakers, hunters and other food-loving people come together to eat, drink and trade homemade treats. The concept is pretty simple: bring five or more of your own homemade goods and go home with the same number of other people’s delicious contributions.
Our community table set up for the swap.
Almond-flax butter ready for sampling.
Swaps in Denver are held once a month at various locations, including local coffee shops and community gardens, depending on the season. When everyone arrives, each person sets up their space with their items and the samples they’ve brought. The first hour or so of the swap is typically devoted to meeting new people, catching up with old friends and tasting what everyone brought.
Clearly identifying your item’s ingredients is key.
Everyone fills out a paper with information about their item, including its ingredients and whether it needs to be kept refrigerated, or any other special instructions. The only strict rule about the swap is that everything needs to be homemade or homegrown, but there is a lot of leeway in that and some people bring really creative contributions. This is a serious group of food lovers, and swappers are definitely out to impress!
Herbed farmers’ cheese.
If you have any of these old-fashioned jars, send them my way.
Once everyone has had a chance to sample, the swapping begins. Guests move around the table, writing their offerings on the bid sheets. Swapping is generally one-to-one, but that of course varies with the item – wild-caught meat and backyard eggs carry a higher value.
Swappers craft lots of interesting and unusual jams that could never be found at a standard grocery store.
Savory items, like these pickled carrots, are popular.
The important thing to know about the swaps is that you’re never obligated to swap with anyone, so you won’t go home with a whole bunch of food you don’t actually like. Savvy swappers know that sweets and jams tend to be common, so savory or unusual items, like pickles, yogurt or condiments will be popular. You can always politely turn down any item that you don’t want to trade for, but this is also a great opportunity to try things you otherwise would never eat (or make).
I brought pickle relish to swap; mine is much less sweet than storebought.
In the short time I’ve attended the Denver swaps, I’ve tasted some incredible foods. One attendee regularly makes delicious vegan desserts (hi, Kristen!); another bakes excellent cookies (hi, Jessica!). I’ve gotten interesting nut butters, kombucha, grass-fed beef, the best granola ever, and pork green chile, which I never make but really love. And above all that, I’ve met my people. People who attend swaps love food, and they want to be part of a food community. All of our communities now exist mostly in an artificially glossy virtual world, and a food swap is a great place to put your phone down for a couple of hours and talk – actually talk! In person! – with other people who love food and cooking as much as you do. I cannot recommend these events enough.
I loved this kumquat jam in my morning oatmeal.
There’s no obligation or membership with food swaps, so you can attend one and see if it’s for you. And please, don’t feel intimidated; just make (or grow! or hunt!) something delicious, package it beautifully and bring extra for sampling. Someone will want to swap for what you’ve brought, and you’ll meet new people and eat good food. What more could you want from a Sunday afternoon?
My take-home bounty from our last swap.
More information about the Denver and Boulder food swaps can be found here! Virtually every major U.S. city (and lots of smaller ones) now have swaps, so you can probably find one close to where you live. They’re popular overseas, too; a simple online search will tell you what’s happening in your neighborhood. And if there isn’t an existing swap where you live, start one up! This will tell you everything you need to know.
P.S. If you’re in the Denver area, come see me this week! I’m teaching a free cooking class at the amazing family-owned Echter’s Garden Center on Wednesday from 6-7PM. Pre-registration is required, so call 303.424.7979 to sign up. And on Thursday I’ll be at their semi-annual Girlfriends’ Night Out fundraising event, so stop by and say hello to me there, too!