I'll trade ya

The principles behind food swapping are at the heart of my mission in all the things I do. What better way to build community, strengthen local food systems and return to some of the things that worked really well for people farther up our family trees?

Over the course of the past year a friend in LA has helped me launch what was a great idea turned fabulous model between a Brooklyn pal and me into a cultural movement sweeping across communities in the US, Canada and even abroad. The network we created, Food Swap Network, is essentially a network of community-based food sharing groups.

So, my point in talking about this is not to relive the spread of the modern food swap movement, but to say that maybe setting up a larger swap where others can join you is not feasible for you at the moment. If that’s more like it for your life, try starting small. Find one person to trade with, something you each make or grow or raise or cook.

I met a friend after returning to Austin who has chickens (and now rabbits and ducks!) on her property just outside of town. She’s a busy working lady and was thrilled at the prospect of trading eggs for ready-to-eat homemade things. We turned our swap into an eggs for what’s-cooking-in-Kate’s-kitchen-this-week kind of thing.

Our weekly trade inspires me to cook a little extra when it comes to the savory things and expand my reach with new dishes, and, of course, there’s never a shortage of sweet, jammy, frozen ice-creamy things around here. Case in point: yesterday’s super-small batch of mulberry jam.

For the two dozen eggs she brings me (the perfect quantity for a baker, ice cream’er and breakfast maker), I typically reciprocate with a pairing of things like:

  • buttermilk cake
  • jars of fermented and fresh pickles
  • spare local produce from my pickling/preserving classes
  • fresh-cut kale, chard, lettuce, beet greens, or other veg from our cooperative garden
  • jars of jam or other sweet preserves
  • a half-pint of homemade ice-cream (this week it’s French-style vanilla bean)
  • extra soup stocks or jars of soup
  • single servings of workday lunches to take on the go

It’s not hard to portion off bits of what I’m already doing in return for these.

What do you make, grow, cook or raise that you could trade? Start talking about it and I bet you’ll soon find an ear (or a friend of a friend’s ear) this will inspire.