Self-described “overzealous food canner” Emily Paster (West of the Loop) has been experimenting and concocting in her kitchen for years. Her love of food and all things canning led her to follow FoodinJars, a canning blog who had written about a Philadelphia Food Swap in 2011. A food swap, you say? Indeed! A gathering of folks who trade homemade goods, typically monthly, where no money is exchanged and communities are built.
After hearing about the swap in Philly, Emily began to investigate. Since Chicago celebrates all things food, from the producers, to the markets, to the at home chefs that make this city a foodie destination, surely there had to be a food swap in Chicago – especially since they had been sweeping the nation from L.A. to Austin by 2011. Surprisingly, Chicago was without a food swap, and that is when Emily called her friend Vannessa Druckman, fellow foodie/blogger/writer friend (check out her blog here: ChefDruck) and began to create Chicago’s one and only food swap event!
What is a Food Swap?
Here’s how it works: Go to the Chicago Food Swap website and sign up to swap for one of their monthly events. Make something delicious at home, package it and bring it to that month’s swap location. Although Emily mentions occasional exotic foodie finds in previously held swaps such as polish farmers cheese, homemade drink syrups including cola, root beer and even a syrup made from dried Jamaican flowers called sorrel, she stresses that anything delicious can be brought. Make a ridiculous chocolate chip cookie? Have a killer tomato sauce or pesto? Bring that!
One tip: Package for conveniance. Make things easy to trade and handle. Best not to bring a whole cake, but rather cupcakes. Once you get to the swap, set up your provisions along with a piece of paper with each item being offered and a few lines underneath for bids. For the first hour of the swap, folks meander from table to table sampling and discussing the homemade goodies. Oh yeah, bring samples! It’s the best way to sell what you’ve got.
Next, people begin to make bids for what they would like to trade. In the last half hour to hour of the swap, the swapper will return to their station and carefully pour over their bid sheet to see who wants to trade. This is where the fun begins. There is no guarantee that you will get what you bid for and although strategy is the fun part of the swap game, everything happens in an easy, conversational and friendly way.
If the Chicago Food Swap had a mission, Emily says it would be “to showcase home cooks and shine a light on what people are doing at home.” She also speaks about the diversity that is represented at each event, whether it is in the origin of the foods or within the people creating them at home.
“People all over the city are honing their craft and making beautiful food,” Emily says. “It is great to get some recognition for people developing their craft”.
Meeting passionate people who have a similar interest and coming home with delectable yummies…pretty much a no-brainer, right foodies?
Want to swap?
The April 7th Food Swap is already on a long waitlist, but do not fear. The May 12th swap is around the corner at the Scrumptious Pantry. Want to know when the list for May will open? Here is how to stay in touch:
Swap needs your help! Since the Chicago Food Swap is a not for profit event, Emily and Vanessa depend on the kindness of businesses to open their locations for each swap. Own a small business and can house about 40 people? Get in touch with Emily or Vanessa through their website (above)!