A year ago last December, Emily Paster and I held our first Chicago Food Swap meet. There were ten of us in the freshly painted basement of a handmade retail store called Pretty Little Things in Forest Park. We swapped, we chatted, and we talked of our dreams for future swaps, all across the city, bringing together foodies. Half the swappers were our friends, but a few other women showed up, bearing jams, breads, and cookies. Two hours later, we were all friends, instantly bonded by our shared love of food and cooking.
We thought the swap was a pretty good idea, and hoped it would grow, but we never imagined that our biggest problem would soon be finding a space large enough to host the swaps. When people leave the food swap with boxes of goodies, they’re already planning what they’ll make for the next one, and who they’ll bring.
Our meets have grown rapidly, and our rsvp list now fills up within days. Although we increased our capacity to 50 swappers, we still had a wait list. The Peterson Garden Project hosted us, and we filled every inch of their beautiful space, including their outdoor garden, taking advantage of the springlike Chicago weather.
Our next food swap will be on Sunday, February 3. We’d like to keep increasing our capacity and welcoming as many swapper as possible to participate. The only question is where. If you know of any place that would like to welcome 50 to 100 devoted food lovers without charge, we’d love to know about it. We’ve held swaps in spice shops, garden centers, and like-minded retail stores. Many of the stores have provided the swappers with a special discount, and have been rewarded with brisk sales.
Help us brainstorm, if you know of any business near your home that you think might welcome our crowd, let Emily and I know. We’ll be happy to contact the business and take it from there. Who knows? The next food swap could be in your neighborhood.