I love that guy... that huge, mutated-looking, green guy towards the right. He stood out to me, special among his peers, and this is saying something because he had many beautiful peers.
These were some of the offerings at a food swap I went to yesterday. What's a food swap, you ask? Well, put your feet up and relax, Sugar-Pie, and I will 'splain it to you. A food swap is an event where people go and swap food with each other... not to be smart alecky about it, but it really is that simple. Everyone brings some sort of food item that they have prepared or grown themselves, and by the end of the event everyone goes home with a sampling of the goodies that were offered.
For example, the tomatoes above, along with several frozen, whole backyard chickens were offered by the hosts of this particular swap... a lovely couple that lives on about an acre that they have turned into a very productive little farm. I brought several quart sized containers of homemade Watermelon-Lime-Ginger Agua Fresca, 2 jars of tarragon-infused white wine vinegar, and a bunch of half-pint jars of homemade blackberry simple syrup (made with blackberries from my yard).
Other people brought such great things as: kimchee, escabeche, homebrewed beer, pre-cooked chicken vindaloo, chili oil, hummus, salsa, banana bread, mini cobblers, Swedish pound cake, chocolate chip oatmeal bars... the list goes on. Here's a sampling of all the good stuff that was available to swap:
After arriving, snacking on samples, and perusing the offerings, the swappers write their names down on bid sheets to show which items they are most interested in. The bids don't obligate anyone to anything; they are really just a conversation starter. Then the swap begins, and there is a choice to refer to the bid sheets to see who is interested in what you have brought, make a bee-line for the things you hope to get, wait to be approached, or just start talking to the person closest to you. There is no obligation to trade for something you are not interested in. As items are traded, they are removed from the table so nothing gets accidentally double-swapped. And by the end of it, everyone has a basket/bag/cooler/box filled with a variety of food items prepared by people with a variety of specialties: gardeners, bakers, cooks, canners, etc. And that's really all there is to it.
I feel giddy after each one I have been to, and I have eaten well. Very well.
The idea came about by a group in Brooklyn that Kate Payne, blogger and author of the recently published The Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking was a part of. It took off, and in the viral way that things spread these days, food swaps started appearing in other cities. Kate moved to Austin a while back and—along with two other food-lovin' gals, Megan Myers and Sarah Binion—started one here called ATXswappers. I first heard about it after reading an article in the Austin Chronicle and started following their events via Facebook, but it was already such a large group I was finding it hard to get involved... invitations would go out and all the spots would be filled within an hour. I did manage to get in on the April swap after being on a wait list and the maximum number of guests was increased... I went and it was awesome. But I also realized that I knew enough people who might be interested, who knew enough other people who might be interested, and so on, that it would probably be really easy to start another group that wasn't so large and might be more manageable. So I did. This was our second swap. (I am still planning to try to get into future ATX Swappers events too though!)
And it's going really well. Even after just two swaps everyone is starting to get the hang of it, we're beginning to figure out reasonable portion sizes that make a 1-to-1 swap easier, and it's just fun. I have already met several cool, new people, plus I get to hang out with people I already know but don't see that often. This time, in addition to the regular swap, the hosts very generously let us all raid their garden and pick whatever we wanted... and there was tons. I am so impressed by how productive their (gigantic) garden is.
Here's a view of just a small part of the garden + my basket of goodies. I filled it with celery, leeks, carrots, Swiss chard, 4 kinds of beans, orange cherry tomatoes, a couple of small red onions, and garlic. This is in addition to the beautiful tomatoes, potatoes, and the whole chicken I got from them in the swap (they are VERY generous!).
Here's what I ended up with when all was said and done: