Food Swap!

Okay, so we've gone a little nuts over this Food Swap thing.

I should backtrack and explain a little. In early September I found out about something called a "food swap," which is basically an event during which a bunch of food nerds swap homemade or homegrown foods. I love barter, and thought this was a brilliant idea, but figured it was probably one of those things going on in New York or Seattle or somewhere like that, and was surprised to find out that one of the more successful ones is going on monthly, right here in Minneapolis. We seemed to be too late to get in for the September event that was happening three days after I found out about it, but at the last minute (Friday afternoon for a Saturday event!) some tickets opened up and we were able to go.

I think we did pretty well for having so little notice -- I raided my Leaning Tower of Jam in the pantry (that's a whole other post -- the Jam Tower consists entirely of flats of half-pint jars of jam I've made since June, and it is now, while sitting on the floor, actually taller than I am!) and David whipped up some of his tasty garlic-havarti rolls; we grabbed some jars of salsa and took off for the swap.

I was too busy during the event last month to get pictures, but the whole thing is very well-organized, and takes place in a lovely space provided by Open Arms. Basically everyone comes in and sets up their wares, and then everyone wanders around for a half-hour or so, checking out what the others have brought, chatting, and enjoying samples. Each item has a little info slip in front of it with its description, ingredients, and so on, and at the bottom are lines for folks who want to "bid" on that item to do so. So, for example, if you saw some wonderful olive tapenade (which I did, and which, alas, I did not get), you'd write down your name and what you're willing to trade for it (say, strawberry jam). While you're doing that, other people are checking out your stuff and writing their bids on your strawberry jam's info sheet. (Amounts are not as much a concern as you'd think -- David observed that a half-pint seemed to have become the standard unit of "currency" for a trade almost by default, but people weren't really crazy about sticking to that.) At the end of the bidding time, you go back and check out your offers and the swapping begins.

The amount of variety is pretty incredible -- there were jams and jellies, spice mixes, a wide variety of baked goods from the basics to the artisan, chocolates, chutneys, fridge pickles and relishes, canned goods, homemade dog treats, salted caramel sauce, fresh herbs, and other things I've probably forgotten. The presentation blew me away -- we'd skimped on that due to the short notice, but others did not, and it was as much a feast for the eyes as the appetite. We found plenty to trade for, and while we didn't get everything we wanted (such as the aforementioned tapenade and the amazing caramel sauce), we did get a lot of great stuff to diversify our pantry and munch on for the rest of the week.

So, not to give it all away, but this month we're anticipating bringing more of David's fresh-from-the-oven rolls, his killer homemade caramelized onion hummus, more jam, of course (for which I have more samples this time, since I've had more notice), and some of my flavored vinegars, infused with my homegrown herbs. If the hens get off their lazy fluffy butts and start laying soon, we'll have home-raised eggs for future swaps. I've made a number of things specifically for the swap -- which is where the "gone a little nuts" part comes in -- and tried some things I'd not have ordinarily tried (like the Spiced Ginger-Carrot Jelly I made the other night while I was pressure-canning pints of carrots), but I'm not normally all that adventurous in the kitchen, so maybe that's a good thing.

Next month's swap is coming up fast, so hopefully I will remember to get pictures this time and post a recap. ^_^

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