This past Sunday I participated in my first Portland Food Swap, organized by Rosemarried and Sustainable Food for Thought. I signed up for it on a whim when I saw it posted on the Portland Food Blogger Facebook Feed, then asked myself for days what I could possibly make that someone else would actually want. Putting oneself out there to allow one’s food to speak for itself is quite frightening, and I found a few first-timers at the event who had felt the same way! I knew I had been successful in my endeavors, however, when the end of the swap drew near, and I suddenly had nothing left to swap and was holding in my basket some absolute treasures including (but not limited to) molasses cookies from Hummingbird High, homemade mole, and habanero peach hot sauce.
Part of my struggle in whether or not to participate was deciding what I was going to bring to the swap. I hoped that people weren’t expecting all spicy things of me as I don’t like being seen as so one dimensional. For the swap I wanted to do something different–something not normally in my repertoire. I wanted to make candy.
Who doesn’t like candy, right? Even so, peppermint patties kind of ride that border between candy and dessert, and from what I had read really weren’t so impossible to make. After many an evening scouring the vast reaches of the Internet, I decided on a recipe from which to start. Then, the next day we made an impromptu stop for groceries, and I decided, what better item to mop up the leftover, slightly minted chocolate than pretzels? So I bought a bag of mini pretzels and dug my favorite salt out of the back of the kitchen cabinet. I brought three sets of things to the April Food Swap: homemade peppermint patties, chocolate covered pretzels with applewood smoked sea salt, and a few jars of pickles that I made late last summer. I was not alone in my thought to bring chocolate–there were many a delicious truffle, cookie, and cake to be swapped, as well as jams, pickles, sauces, salsas, fruits, soups, nuts, toffees, marinades, and so much more. This mini documentary I found on Cooking Up A Story is from the December Swap–and that scratches the surface of the experience you have trading your goods with others.
A quick breakdown of the swap–you bring your goods, and set them up in groups so people can see how many you have–making sure each type of thing you brought has a slip next to it explaining what the item is. That slip also has blank spaces below the description for people to add their names and items they would swap you for your item. The first 20-30 minutes are just spent walking around, sampling, questioning, and meeting others. Then the high sign is given and MADNESS ensues. What I loved about this meetup was the setup for the foods. It was done in the learning kitchen of Sharp (their student run restaurant) at The Art Institute of Portland. It was a warm, welcoming environment, which meant you could leave your bag and goods at your table and wander the event without a care.
My Portland Swap experience was so positive that I’m already planning what to bring for the next one! I would love to bring some of Ktams’ homemade toffee as it is out-of-this-world delicious. There I go again with candy. I left the swap feeling like I had collected so many little treasures at such a small cost to myself–and I hoped others felt the same way–although you wouldn’t find most of the items there on store shelves (making it difficult to know what they would be valued at), everyone put in so much time, effort, and love into what they created. That’s what (I think) made this event so warm. Each person admired the labor that was put forth to create and present their goods, whether you made them that morning, the night before, or in some pickled/jarred cases, last summer!