Bourbon maple bacon, fennel tomato sauce, grapefruit ginger curd, blood orange vanilla vodka, Meyer lemon ricotta…these are just a few examples of the delicious offerings to be expected at the monthly food swap I’ve quite willingly become a part of with a host of fellow foodies. Dreamed up by a lovely couple who embody what being a lover of all things food is and sharing that love with friends, food swap has become a highlight of the month for this girl. A common bond and affinity for creating in the kitchen brings us together once a month on that blessed Saturday morning when we arrive to someone’s home with goods in hand. There’s something about knowing a friend, or perhaps even a complete stranger, slaved in their kitchen creating something for you to take home and enjoy. Some prepare tried and true recipes they are known for, while others venture out into the unknown and surprise even themselves by what they can create that may have, at one time, seemed daunting. The only limitations are that items must be homemade, home grown, or otherwise processed by you and you alone; jams, cheeses, infused syrups, lip balm, canned vegetables, baked goods…the list goes on.
There’s an anticipation that comes in the week leading up to the swap. The hustle and bustle of finishing your item on time, praying you made enough to fill each jar, and labeling with care; swap goods are prepared and packaged with love. Some swappers tease you with a taste of what is to come, posting photos of their laborious process through various social media outlets; while others simply keep you waiting until the big reveal. The morning of feels like Christmas. We anxiously arrive to the host home, basket of goods in hand and ready to be placed on the table. Some sort of breakfast is provided by the host home; hot buttermilk biscuits with a hand churned flavored butter and coffee or a flaky pastry and a cup of Mexican hot chocolate while we mingle and divulge what we each brought to the table. I love the diversity of the group; young singles, families, newlyweds. We are all brought together through this common passion. Food. The little ones join forces, cooking up their own mischief while the adults converse about food, art, and life. It’s finally game time; we line up and fill our baskets with one of each item set before us. Ours is not a bidding or bartering system as I know some can be; we each bring enough for every swapper present so that we leave with one of every item. And to spice things up, there is also a swap bin if a certain item doesn’t tickle your fancy with an unspoken understanding that no one will take offense if their offering gets the boot. i Let’s be honest though, I’m too busy salivating over the delicious creations I’m going home with to ever take offense!
We can hardly wait to get home and dream up our next meal or afternoon indulgence. The weeks following result in social media posts of gratitude for a meal already prepared because of the swap or an infused syrup that added the perfect touch to an evening cocktail. After almost a year of “swapping”, my eyes (and palate) have been opened to a medley of flavors and culinary delights; some I had never heard of, others added a zany twist to an old favorite that will now forever ruin me for the original. Don’t get me wrong though, fancy is not the goal; only that items are made with love. Each time I leave inspired and grateful for a glimpse into the creations from other kitchens. Friendships have been built through this special gathering and labor of love. I’m thankful for this unique group I have the privilege of being a part of, not only for the tasty morsels it provides but, more importantly, for the community it has created.
Photos by Melissa Green http://www.melissagreenphotography.com/