In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. ~ Gibran

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Field Trip:Food SWAP Comes To Portland!

I’m feeling very hip at the moment.  Hip on the food scene, that is.  I recently attended a food swap here in Portland, OR.  Jumping on the table with New York, Seattle, London, and Austin, it was the perfect event for our city – a bit weird, a bit green, very domestic.  If you can’t put up some cans of summer crops (think tomatoes or berry jams) or bake something scrumptious, you are missing some major domestic goddess qualities.  June Cleaver is a serious role model these days, haven’t you heard?
It was a beautiful June evening when I joined twenty-five other food-lovers gathered at a home in east Portland.  The mood was casual and comfortable, a bit awkward for me; being both new at food swaps and only knowing fellow Make and Take Gal, Pam, who had enthusiastically registered for the event too.   However, no worries, the excitement of wondering what my stash would yield quickly dissolved any anxieties.  So what was protocol?  Our expressions must have revealed our naivety because the hostess suddenly appeared and directed us outside to awaiting tables where we would display our wares.  We were some of the first to arrive.  As we chose a table, more and more women trickled out to the backyard laden with homemade goodies to trade.  You could clearly sense the pride as these 20 to 50 year olds lovingly displayed their items.
I had made gluten-free strawberry rhubard bars; something I thought would be enjoyed for its sweet, delicate texture and use of in-season ingredients.  I put a gluten-free spin on it for two reasons – gluten-free is in demand these days, and my gf husband wanted to nibble on the crumbs while I did the packaging.   I also brought cranberry and wine jelly from Mary Jo as she couldn’t attend the swap at the last minute.  The rich garnet color of her preserves was the perfect backdrop for my polka-dot wrapped bundles.  As I put the last of my bars out, I looked over and Pam had nicely displayed her chocolate dipped, gourmet caramel apples.  Bagged in crisp cellophane and tied with raffia, I knew her items would be a total hit.  I hoped she would save one for me.  By this time, all twenty five guests had assembled their items and we were instructed to start perusing the potential swaps.  What would I try to barter for?  There were so many choices.
Everything from canned jams and pickled onions graced the tables.  Granola and oat brittle looked amazing.  Fresh medicinal herbs, homemade kombucha tea and kefir raised my eyebrows.  Peanutella and smoked almonds were high on my trade list.  The most unusual items included line-caught Oregon tuna, homemade laundry soap, and freshly cooked garden snails.  The swapping would commence soon – what would I go for?  How could I be sure to get all my favorites?  We were instructed to write our name and trade on the sheet in front of any item we were interested in.  Everything looked so good, I chose several, scribbled my name, and crossed my fingers.  Our hostess instructed us to commence trading ‘in the spirit of friendship’ – no throwing elbows here.  Good thing we had name tags on so I could find the ladies I needed to approach.  

Deals were made easily, and I soon had only a couple items left.  My box of loot was varied and bursting.  I couldn’t wait to dig into the Peanutella – score!  Everyone seemed happy to give and receive.  The initial fervor of the exchange had calmed down and we were all admiring our stash.  It was only later I learned that Pam had actually been turned down on a trade.  Her cellophane bag had offended a fellow swapper – plastic was apparently not cool.  A bit disappointing for Pam, but understandable and certainly respectable – we all have our principles.  Who knew?  This was an organic, earthy crowd; certainly Portland at its best.

The evening ended with a nice potluck dinner.  I finally got to try kale chips; I think I will make those at home.  We mingled briefly, ate, and were on our way.  We chuckled as we crossed the bridge and headed back to the west side suburbs.  What a great, new experience.  Pam and I agreed we had to host our own swap.  This was right up our Make and Take Gals alley.
Enjoy!   ~ Jean

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