VALPARAISO | Tables were laden with homemade Greek yogurt, blueberry jam, almond poppy seed muffins, canned green beans, and Irish soda bread. Across the small room, others offered banana bread, chocolate chip bars, cranberry salsa and braided bread.
Nearly twenty people gathered for the first ever Northwest Indiana Food Swap Sunday afternoon.
Toni Snearly, of Knox, founded the Northwest Indiana Food Swap after attending her first such event in Chicago just last month.
Snearly, a food blogger and home vending baker, said she “absolutely knew” she wanted a swap in Northwest Indiana.
“It helps you diversify your pantry and it’s an outlet for people who like to be creative in the kitchen,” she said.
At a food swap, all items must be homemade and no money ever changes hands. Instead, participants visit others’ tables and offer to trade food items.
But the event, Snearly said, “is not your grandma’s food swap.”
“They start turning into culinary events,” she said. “You see other people and their creations and it inspires you.”
Heather Fox eagerly shared her homemade Fuzzy Navel jam, dog treats, and thin mint and peanut butter cup cookies, but she was looking for homemade pico de gallo and fresh bread.
“I like to share things I make, and I’m new at canning. I have a lot and can’t eat it all ... and it’s really yummy,” said Fox, of Lowell. “It gives you an opportunity to try new recipes, and fresh is always way better than anything you buy.”
After attending the Chicago swap, Snearly created a Facebook page and a Twitter account and looked for a venue. Within three days, she had a following and a place to hold the event. Mothering by Nature offered its community room at 257 W. Indiana Ave. in Valparaiso.
“I was overwhelmed that first week,” said Snearly. “I couldn’t believe how quickly it grew.”
Food swapping started a few years ago in New York and is now a national “movement,” said Snearly. Indiana's only other food swap thus far is in Indianapolis.
“We’re on the ground floor with this,” said Snearly, who hopes to hold swaps in the area every other month.
Spring Holland, of Hammond, said she was excited to be at her first swap, but also “a little intimidated.”
Holland said she doesn’t like making food if she has to turn on a stove, so she brought homemade coconut syrup and pico de gallo. She also displayed jars of tzatziki – Greek cucumber sauce – made from her father-in-law’s “secret” recipe.
“I won’t share the recipe but I will share the fruits of it,” Holland said.