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Pickles for Beer? It's a Deal

Food swap starts in Truckee
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What: Food Swap

When: 2 p.m., Sunday Oct. 30

Where: Truckee River Winery Tasting Room, 11467 Brockway Rd, Truckee

Info: Visit the Slow Food Lake Tahoe events page on Faceboo

A group of Truckee/Tahoe foodies gathered last month to barter and trade. Food for food, as in: 'I’ll give you one homemade cookie for one of your homebrewed beers.'

It's called a food swap and it's hosted by Slow Food Lake Tahoe. Take what you love about potlucks — trying someone else's culinary specialty — and put a spin on it. Participants come with something they cooked, foraged, or grew and come away with a grocery bag full of other homemade novelties. The idea is to stock up your pantry while also encouraging community.

'It's a great way to bring the community together with good, wholesome cooking,' said Kara Fox, a first-time participant at the September food swap, which was held in the courtyard in front of Coffeebar in downtown Truckee. Fox heard about the event from a Slow Food board member and brought some vanilla strawberry jam and okra pickles, both of which she had canned herself.

Porter-based spice mustard; home-cured olives picked from trees in Davis; ginger-infused Belgian Saison beer; organic apricot, chocolate, and almond biscotti; organic pizza dough — a variety of novelties and treats were displayed in colorful packaging on the tables.

'It actually creates a microcosm of our local food system right here, right now,' said Kevin Drake, Slow Food board member and homebrew aficionado. Drake's beers were in high-demand when it came time to swap.

But there was something crisp and green that did not show its face at the event — dollar bills.

George Washingtons don’t pull much weight in what you come home with. Instead, the swap uses food as currency.

'For me, I was most struck by the idea that it's a cash-free event,' said Jessie Phillips, a Slow Food board member who spearheaded the event with Lauren Birtwhistle, a Slow Food member.

Food swaps are popping up across the nation and are completely underground, free, and community-based, an aspect that releases the event from any commercial food regulations. (Though event organizers provide guidelines, such as dating canned food, and encourage responsible and clean practices when preparing foods for the swap.) Birtwhistle first heard about a food swap when she was visiting Portland, Ore., and read an article about a local swap. She pitched the idea to Slow Food Lake Tahoe after learning more.

'It's right in line with [Slow Food's] values,' Birtwhistle said.

Slow Food aims to host a food swap on the last Sunday of every month, though the dates may change during the holidays. So far they’ve had three swaps, and the numbers have varied from a handful to about a dozen or more participants.

'I think people get a little intimated at first,' Birtwhistle said. 'It's really more about the social aspect and local, good food … Come once, try it. You can bake cookies or bring five different things.'

The door to participate is absolutely open from experienced canners and foragers to beginner bakers. A trade is typically one for one. That said, keep in mind that the more creative your product, the more demand you’ll have for it.

'It's just trying new things, new foods,' Birtwhistle said. 'You don’t want to leave with anything you brought.'

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February 14, 2019