The gift of food

At our house, the practice of sharing food is a year long occurrence.

At Christmas time, even people who aren’t obsessed with food enjoy opening their hearts and kitchens. It doesn’t mean we get invited over for dinner more often, but at least it’s not as awkward when we give them a jar of jam or sauce or flavoured oil and vinegar sets.

I’ve decided for next year, I am going to start a formal Food Gift Swap, encouraging people to take part in our custom. It turns out I am not the only one who thinks this is a good idea.

Food gifting exchanges are becoming a trendy pastime again, and I think I know why. In an age where many of us have plenty of stuff, the gift of something consumable is still personal but manageable with one’s budget and one’s storage situation.

It’s also an activity that encourages a sense of community, something many of us claim to be lacking in our everyday lives. Food connects us, even remotely, I discovered.

The custom of exchanging food has existed since prehistoric times. Various food items have been used like currency throughout history, and some today are still considered commodities. (Just look at the current price of vanilla to understand how the availability of food ingredients can affect their value.)

Being able to barter and exchange items is possibly one of the roots of our idea of sustainability in a community.

Here in the Okanagan, we can comprehend that very well in summer, as the fruit trees in our yards give us more bounty than we know what to do with. If your neighbour has a different kind of tree, then everyone benefits, right?

In agricultural areas, the trading of food items has always been common. In urban areas, it’s not as obvious but still common. What used to happen informally after church or in the lunch room at work has now become an event.

Food swap events have become popular in many countries, but most of them have been events people attended in person. They happen much like a silent auction, with people putting out their wares and others bidding on them (with goods instead of dollars).

Usually an equivalency scale is established to simplify exchanging (e.g. six muffins or cupcakes equals one loaf of bread). After a reasonable amount of time, everyone returns to their spot and completes their swaps.

The beauty of a personal event is that people have a chance to chat and get to know one another. After all, they already have a common interest in food and its preparation.

Fans of the concept say this is another example of the new take on collectivism, a trend for people to reduce waste, encourage thrifty activities and support the building of communities.

Of course, with the advent of easy communication through the internet the food swap concept has now gone online. Connecting people remotely through food is quite easy with technology.

A foodie website called Food 52 has run an international food swap for the past eight years – they grew to more than 1,000 members this year.

People sign in with details for a profile and they are then matched with someone who has similar dietary needs (as in, gluten free people, vegetarians with each other).

For ease of shipping people are paired with someone not too far away to avoid any customs challenges and allow cheaper shipping rates. (If all this has you wanting to join for next year, here is where you sign up,

The spirit of giving is contagious, and food swaps have used that idea to include a larger component. The Food 52 swap encourages swappers to donate $5 to a food-based charity every year.

Many swappers say they are also volunteers with other food groups like soup kitchens or food banks. A love of food seems to be something people just can’t help but share. Maybe this is a good place to start if you’re not a foodie…

How about this: the next time you’re at the grocery store, pick out an extra item you like, and put it in the local Food Bank donation box. See how it feels to share something that puts a smile on your face, and you might just catch the bug.

In case you do feel like cooking and you’re looking for ideas of what to make for a possible swap, or even a straightforward food gift, I found a great bunch of recipes with everything from truffles to nuts (sorry, no soup recipe). 

Happy cooking!

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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