I don’t have children, but I imagine one of the things I have to look forward to someday is imparting knowledge to my offspring. By this, I mean I hope to use all of my embarrassing life experiences to provide examples of what not to do. Luckily for me [and probably you too], we won’t be talking about any traumatic anecdotes today, but instead I wanted to share a few pearls of wisdom on how to approach your first food swap.
Have you ever been to a food swap? I hadn’t until this past fall. I had stalked the Philly Swappers’ Eventbrite page with extreme curiosity for several swaps prior, but hadn’t actually committed to going. If you haven’t been to one, they’re a really great way to meet new people who share your interest of baking, cooking, fermenting, curing, gardening or whatever food-related wonder it is that you make and do. And, they’re a really great way to
pawn off your own food test recipes in exchange for a variety of delicious food items and drinks.
The Philly Swappers held their winter swap this past Monday, and it was even better than the previous event [which had a slew of delicious offerings and was pretty hard to top!]. Every bookshelf in the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s Library was covered with the likes of dilly beans, freshly made butter, cranberry bitters, chicken and pork belly sausage, loaf breads, kombucha starters, Russian tea cookies, homemade nutella, beef jerky, home-brewed beer, crackers and hummus and every kind of jam, jelly and preserve you can imagine. It is a smorgasbord of edibles and talent.
I brought a batch of chocolate truffle stout marshmallows and some last minute salted blood orange chocolate chip cookies with almonds [recipe at the end of the post] because I had hoped to make blood orange macarons, but the shells were a big fat fail. At the first swap, I brought some decorated sugar cookies and a giant case of shyness. This time, I was more prepared, though admittedly still a bit reserved. So to practice for the future children I hope to have someday, I shall begin bestowing knowledge by sharing tips on how to approach your first food swap, based on my own experiences [what NOT to do's included!]
1. Don’t be shy. I know I talk a mean extrovert game [no pun intended], but I clam up like a quahog when I’m in a room full of talented folks who I don’t know and who will probably pass judgement on whatever I eat. It can be tempting to rush through the tables and continuously stuff your mouth with edibles so you don’t have to talk to anyone, but it’s just not friendly. Even if you find a sample jar of ricotta that tastes like a dream, don’t hide in the corner muttering “my precious” and hoarding it like Gollum [and if you read the last past, I promise this is the last time I'll use that reference for at least a month]. Put on your extrovert pants [don't like pants? How about jorts? Put on your extrovert jorts!] and talk to someone you don’t know. Swappers might just be the friendliest breed of human on the planet. You’ve already got something in common to talk about, you’re halfway to a conversation!
2. Still afraid to strike up a conversation? Take a look at the list of attendees ahead of time. If the swapping group uses a site like Eventbrite or their own website, chances are, they’ll list the names of attendees and what they’re bringing. If they have a Twitter, they’ll likely retweet what people are bringing ahead of time, giving you the opportunity to
stalk follow them on twitter and check out their blogs if they’ve got one!
3. Better to be safe than sorry! Know the location and make sure you can safely transport your goods and keep them intact during transit. For instance, if the swap is a half hour bike ride from where you live, and it ends after dark, you may want to bring some sort of flashlight or make sure you know where you’re going so you don’t try to squint to read your directions in the dark and wind up lost in a not-so-nice neighborhood. Alternatively, you could take public transit, carpool or even get a cab…which would be the smart thing to do [and, you can safely assume, not the route I took]. And, if you bike/rollerblade/segway/hoverboard/whatever, you may want to bring swappables that fit in a back pack, or can handle a bumpy ride in a basket. Which leads me to…
4. Carrying vessels! Sure, it’s important to get your stuff to the swap, but don’t forget about the bountiful booty you’re bringing back [forgive me, it's not every day I get to use the word booty without referring to rap songs AND also be alliterative]. You may have brought cookies that didn’t take up much room in your bag, but you may wind up with jars of jam, bottles of beer or loaves of bread, all of which take up significantly more room and require something bigger to carry them in. Plan for space and plan for delicate items. Mason jars are the swapper’s friend. No one wants to take home a broken glass and spilled spoils of swapping [I know, I know, again with the alliteration!]
5. Don’t take it personally. That was a toughie for me. In the fall, I only brought sugar cookies and I had to come to terms with the fact that some people may have different dietary restrictions or maybe They’re Just Not Into You(r Swapping Item). Don’t go chasing anyone down begging them to take your item or spend your night locked in the bathroom crying. It isn’t anything personal…and remember, you have just as much right to say no to something if you don’t want it! [Though, admittedly, it was nice to hear someone say, 'oh! you're the girl with the beer marshmallows! I've been looking for you!' and then quickly pull out their wares to trade.]
6. Have fun! Eat. Make friends. Be excited about what you brought. Learn something new! I learned what a SCOBY was and tried cajeta for the first time (and took both home! Stay tuned!). Swapping is a great way to meet like-minded folks, network and eat really amazing food. Check your local paper, browse the web and see if there’s a swap going on near you–you won’t regret it!
And now, without further ado….SALTED BLOOD ORANGE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES WITH ALMONDS! [oh and one last tip: you may want to keep your titles short. Long ones can be a real pain to write out on swap cards!]
- 2 sticks butter, room temperature
- ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tablespoons blood orange juice
- the zest of one small to medium blood orange
- 2¼ cups flour
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
- ⅓ cup blanched almonds, slivered
- Pink sea salt, for sprinkling the tops (feel free to substitute any milder variety of sea salt. I buy Trader Joe’s because it’s $3 and salty but not abrasively so)
- Preheat oven to 350.
- In a small bowl, combine flour, ¼ teaspoon salt and baking soda. Set aside.
- Cream together butter and sugars until fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Incorporate eggs, one at a time. Mix until combined.
- Add vanilla, zest and orange juice. Mix until evenly distributed.
- Slowly add the flour mixture, stirring to combine. Once thoroughly mixed, slowly stir in chopped dark chocolate and almonds, being careful not to overmix.
- Refrigerate dough for 20 minutes.
- Drop by spoonful (or cookie-scoopful) onto a parchment or Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes until puffed and edges are slightly golden brown. Allow to cook for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a cooling rack.
- Serve warm with a glass of milk.