To find the next Chicago Food Swap, watch online for info at chicagofoodswap.com
The people began arriving a few minutes before 3, women in their
20s, moms with kids in tow. They carried boxes full of homemade
creations: loaves of bread, sweets, exotic jams, drink syrups,
flavored mustards, pickled vegetables, and even homegrown tomato
As the cooks and gardeners began admiring each other's
offerings, the questions began: How did you make that? How do you
use it? Would you like to trade for one of mine?
Trading is the name of the game at the Chicago Food Swap.
Such food swaps were one of 2011's hottest food trends and are only
becoming more popular. At a food swap, home cooks and gardeners
trade their homemade and homegrown food stuffs. No money changes
Food swaps are the natural outgrowth of the expanding
do-it-yourself movement causing people all over America to raise
backyard chickens, plant vegetable gardens and revive the lost art
of home food preservation. With social media, it has become easier
than ever for DIY cooks to find one another.
Last December, my neighbor, Vanessa Druckman, and I
decided it was time to bring the food swap trend to Chicago. As
food bloggers, we wanted to meet other people as passionate about
food as we are and see what other home cooks were whipping
We started small with only a dozen swappers at our first
event. By our fourth swap, we had to cap the number of participants
at 40 and turn people away.
At the Chicago Food Swap, swappers set up their offerings
and fill out a swap card, listing its ingredients and suggested
uses. The first half-hour is spent mingling and checking out the
offerings. If a swapper sees something interesting, he or she
suggests a trade on the swap card for that item. After 45 minutes,
the actual swapping begins. All swaps are negotiated individually.
Luckily, it usually works out so that everyone goes home happy with
their arms full of delicious food.
Because many-although certainly not all-of the swappers
are parents, the swaps have become family affairs.
Vanessa and I usually bring our daughters, ages 9 and 10,
who like to bake their own goodies to swap. As a result, other
swappers have started doing the same. At the June swap, for
example, 12-year-old Katie Howe's festively decorated
chocolate-covered pretzel sticks were one of the most-coveted
items. As it turns out, the lure of swapping goodies is a great way
to get young people interested in cooking.
And it is not just the kids who are excited.
Glen Ellyn mom Serena Yuen Beltz says the Chicago Food
Swap has inspired her as a cook.
"I've made a point to go to the French Market in Wheaton
every Saturday morning to get cucumbers to pickle and the amount of
jam I've made in the last week is enough to feed an army," she
"There's something very satisfying about getting together
with a group of foodies and food enthusiasts to share our
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