A Little Word on the Boston Food Swap

Home-canned tomatillo salsa made from fresh homegrown tomatillos were the first stop at the Boston Food Swap, where participants could bid for either.

Since the summer of 2011, Bostonians have been gathering at Space With a Soul to share their homegrown, handcrafted, homebaked goodies. This month’s Boston Food Swap, held today, featured many delicious products, including Roasted Red Pepper and Almond Romesco and sweet Peach Thyme Compote. Spices, baked goods, and pickled vegetables were also in abundance.

The swap, created by Lyn Huckabee, Tara Bellucci, and Susan Johnston, was inspired by similar programs in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, and has found great success in Beantown. The purpose of the Food Swap is to create an opportunity for local producers, whether from the kitchen or the garden, to share their creations. The Boston Food Swap provides a monthly alternative to the supermarket, where participants can get sustainable and affordable products while exercising creativity to supply their own.

The Food Swap combines elements of market haggling with silent auctioning. Products are put out for participants to see and sample, and as people make their way through the offerings, they write down what they would be willing to “pay” for that item. Today, people traded Pear Butter for Tomatillo Salsa, and  Maple Walnut Butter for house-baked pretzels.

Slices of bread were used to sample Concord Grape Jelly and Cranberry Raspberry Compote served over goat cheese – a delicious treat I was lucky enough to take home with me!

What’s most inspiring is the way the Boston Food Swap fosters artistry and enterprise in the kitchen and garden.  When I first arrived at the swap, Johnston shared her attempt to make slow-cooker granola for the event. Although it didn’t work out the way she had planned, her efforts are indicative of the pioneering spirit with which the Food Swap was created, and the creativity put into every product.

Lauren, a swapper who brought two different kinds of fudge to today’s swap, said “there are so many different things that I can try – things that I would never maybe buy, or make for myself – so it’s very nice to be able to come here and see all the creative things people are making in their own kitchens.”

The future of the Boston Food Swap is bright, and developing rapidly, as its devoted founders expand their reach.  In January, the food swap will try a new venue, heading to the Cambridge Winter Farmer’s Market. Johnston said this move will be, “a great way to reach people across the river.”

While the Boston Food Swap expands, Huckabee acknowledges the invaluable relationships that have formed between the Boston Food Swap and dedicated swappers. Ultimately, this is a community event, bringing neighbors and friends together. It’s “something that people tell their friends about,” she said.  And while there are always new people coming to check out the event and share their goods, a loyal group is always in attendance, eager to display their latest concoction.

Bellucci shared that the Boston Food Festival “Hope[s] to become a non-profit so that we can keep the event free for everyone.” Non-profit status will allow the group to fundraise, and will mark a major milestone.

First-time swappers shared their Vegan Stuffing, and participants scrambled to try a bite of the new product.

While jams and spreads were key players in today’s swap, some surprising bites showed up as the day progressed. This Vegan Stuffing was a delicious dish, and was perfectly timed for the upcoming Thanksgiving Feast. Pumpkin Parmesan Biscuits, Mulling Spices, Salted Apple Caramels, and Cranberry Nut Bread were other seasonal items featured at the swap.

Next month’s swap will be a Cookie Swap for a Cause, where Glad to Give will give one dollar to Cookies for Kid’s Cancer for each cookie brought to the swap.

So grab a friend, and get baking! Here are some amazing cookie recipes I’ve turned up, all under 150 calories. I know I’m excited to try my hand at these for a good cause, and with so many ways to keep things low sugar, low fat, vegan, gluten-free, or grain-free, there are options for everyone interested in participating.

From Vegetarian Times, try these Gluten-Free Wild Rice and Dried Cranberry Cookies.

From the healthy dessert blog, Chocolate-Covered Katie, a vegan Skinny Snickerdoodle. (From personal experience, this is a great recipe, and can be made with whole wheat pastry flour. Just be very careful about the amount of salt, and never use salted butter.)

Sugar Free Maple Cookies from Taste of Home  keep with the seasonal theme, and are under 50 calories a piece!

This recipe from Foodie Fiasco fits just about any diet. Vegan, Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Sugar-Free, Low Carb, and almost entirely sinless, these Ginger Cookies are a great way to end a meal.

Make sure to set aside some time on December 16 to tie on your apron and get your hands in the flour, or rice flour, or coconut flour. Experience all the great things the Boston Food Swap has to offer while getting in the holiday spirit and sharing your baking prowess. Meet people who are passionate about local food, and try some delicious new bites.

A big thank you to Lyn, Tara and Susan, who allowed me to watch the swap today, Cindy for the amazing compote, and to everyone who encouraged me to come back another time with a dish of my own to swap!

Until then, I’m off to swap another little bite.

Melanie

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