Make, Eat and SWAP!

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Last month I was finally able to attend my first BK Swappers’s event. I learned about BK Swappers last fall from my friend who blogs over at Becoming Brooklyn. But Fall was busy, and then came Christmas…finally when BK Swappers announced their January meetup, I RSVPed immediately. Then proceeded to panic for the next two weeks about which of my goodies were even worthy enough to debut at such an event.

The basic idea is whip up a bunch of homemade goodies–jams, breads, bitters, alcohol, baked goods, backyard eggs…–bring them to a designated site with like minded foodies, talk, socialize and trade, then head home with all your new goodies. Swappers are encouraged to bring 5-10 items to swap. Trades are generally one to one, so 1 jar of jam for a small box of cookies or a jar of bitters. The idea is you walk out with as many items as you walked in with.

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Aside from my friend’s intro to the group, I also came across its NY Times write up which only increased the level of anxiety. Suddenly my jars of jams and butters seemed far inferior to  green curry paste, home grown herbal teas and buddha hand vodka (which I did actually have, but was in no way willing to part with). I made a few jars of caramel sauce and included a jar of vanilla sea salt for extra insurance.

I timidly entered Dabney Lee (which by the way is the CUTEST little stationery shop I’ve ever seen–VISIT!) in Dumbo, the swap location that month, with no idea what I was doing. I was instructed to set my items out on a small space of table that was left and fill out my bid cards. These cards were to include item names, descriptions, ingredients, how to serve and any other instructions that were important, like “keep refrigerated”. There was space on the cards for other swappers to bid with an exchange of their own.

My goods all set up for swapping!

My goods all set up for swapping!

Just as Debbie described in her NY Times article, the bid cards were mainly for show. Nothing written on these cards were binding, it was more of an idea to learn who else was interested in your items. Everyone wore name tags so bidders were easy to find. You were encouraged to wander around the room, make bids of your own and learn about your competition fellow swappers.

When the bidding actually did start, about an hour into the event, it became a total free for all. In less than 5 minutes I had already swapped 9 of my ten items for tasty treats like tea, tomato jam, lemoncello and (the very coveted) key lime pie fudge. The jams sold and are always popular, as one veteran swapper mentioned. And when I checked my bid sheet, the caramel sauce had more bids than most. Strangely, my extra insurance, my vanilla sea salt that I thought would make a huge bang, was the least popular item.

My final haul including orange bitters, fudge, tomato jam, macaroons, lemoncello, tea and more!

My final haul including orange bitters, sour cherry macaroons, loose tea, roasted garlic spread and MORE!

After just one swap, I hardly consider myself an expert, but I can offer some words of advice about this almost underground society and perhaps  ease the first timers anxiety I felt myself.

PRESENTATION COUNTS – Like with most things in life, how you present something can usually make or break a deal. I wrapped my jar lids with bright fabric and created Brooklyn Locavore tags that named the item and its ingredients. Whether or not people actually wanted my goods in the end, the pretty packaging certainly drew a crowd.
SHARE YOUR STORY – So you made some chocolate chip cookies. To the untrained eye, they may look like plain old Toll House Cookies, but you know they’re actually your great grandmother’s recipe that has been passed down and perfected through generations. Undeniably the greatest chocolate chip cookies ever! Well, then don’t be shy–tell people!
SWEETS SELL – We’re all gluttons at heart. We spend hours at the gym, strive to eat healthy, but behind closed doors nearly none of us would turn down a sinfully sweet treat. As the swappers socialize and check out the goods, you can guarantee people will gravitate towards the homemade fudge, macaroons, candied this or chocolate covered anything.
BRING MULTIPLES – When I read 5-10 items, I wasn’t sure if that mean 10 different items or all the same. Most people brought multiples of a few things. So maybe focus on 3-4 things and bring a few of each rather than 10 totally different items. It will certainly save some stress in the kitchen. Plus, you don’t want a fight to break out over the only jar of boozy cranberries (or do you…?).
JUST A LITTLE TASTE – Samples are highly encouraged. In fact, if it was my swap, I would probably make it mandatory. But seriously, rather than trying to explain your smoked pickled watermelon poppers (disclaimer: item does not really exist), just let people taste them themselves.
STRETCH YOURSELF – In the end, all of your foodie items will go, no matter how lame you might have thought they were. But at the same time, uniqueness and creativity will certainly score you points. If there’s something cool you can make or have been dying to try, do it! You’re among foodie friends who will truly appreciate the effort. And if it fails, well, at least you get a story to share out of it.

BK Swappers generally runs an event every other month. The next one is rumored to be in late March, so be sure to follow them on Facebook to stay in the know. Maybe I’ll see you there!


10 thoughts on “Make, Eat and SWAP!

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  6. I just saw this and simply had to comment that I literally squealed with excitement!!

    (the key lime fudge was mine and I didn’t realize it was so coveted 😀 You made my night!!)

    • Yay! So glad you commented. I remember seeing your post on the BK Swapper Facebook page that it might be coming, and that was all wanted all night. I was so concerned nothing I brought would be worthy–I can’t even remember what I traded for it. It was to die for delicious. I kept cutting little slivers, to seem lady like, but would go back for another sliver and another… I think it was gone in 2 days, if that.

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