VALPARAISO — While many folks spent Sunday afternoon covering their buffet tables with typical game-day foods – including fried animal parts, smashed avocados, and store-bought chips drowning in processed cheese -- a group of Northwest Indiana foodies created a very different culinary experience.

Members of the Northwest Indiana Food Swap lined tables at the Art Barn with homegrown, homemade, home-foraged, and home-harvested cuisine for their monthly food swap.

At a typical food swap, members bring 3–4 different handmade food items, complete with recipes or an ingredients list, and, similar to a silent auction, sign up to take home others’ items to try.

Foods at Sunday’s swap included parmesan crostini, banana chia pudding, Asian rice noodle salad, rustic potato gnocchi, canned herbed tomatoes, lemon pound cake and peanut butter banana protein balls.

Most members leave with a stash of new foods, new ideas, and sometimes, new friends.

Food swap coordinator Kathy Sipple said it’s a great way to use up pantry items, to try new things, and to “build community.”

Sipple’s friend and fellow “foodie,” Toni Snearly, of Knox, started the Northwest Indiana Food Swap in March 2013 while writing a food blog, to meet other foodies and to share recipes and ideas.

“This empowers everyone to be a part of the local food system,” Sipple said. “The full week after food swap, people post pictures on Instagram and talk about how delicious everything is. It’s a great way to celebrate being together even beyond the event.”

Roseanne Nabhan said baking with her granddaughter is always a “special event,” so she brought their pumpkin bread to share.

‘I’ve been eating organic food for a long time now, so I know what’s in it,” said Nabhan, of Portage.

Local eggs and deer meat harvested on the Art Barn property were offered by Sharon Stefankiewicz.

“The eggs were collected last week and the venison is about three weeks old,” said Stefankiewicz, of Valparaiso. “This is all I’m willing to part with right now.”

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Pat Jackson tempted swappers with her “health bars” made with an extensive list of wholesome ingredients, including oats, walnuts, almonds, dates, raisins, cranberries, and applesauce.

“There’s no sugar added,” said Jackson, of Chesterton.

Matthew Byerly made Indian potato soup and a curry tuna salad with the spices “gifted” to him by a friend. He also offered a dried bacon and wild rice mug soup mix.

“It’s basically Lipton Cup-A-Soup, but the homemade version, and much more healthy,” Byerly said.

Byerly said he joined the swap because he loves cooking and eating.

“I also enjoy stories,” said Byerly, of Valparaiso. “Everything has a story behind it. I like finding out the different stories and participating in the story with that person by sharing the food.”

Because she enjoys wild edibles and gardening, Jackson was drawn to the food swap last year.

“I like to share interesting foods,” Jackson said. “The foods people bring are not your typical stuff.”

Sipple agreed that a highlight of the swap is the variety and innovativeness of the foods shared.

“Everyone who has never been to a food swap thinks we bring things like zucchini bread. Well, everyone knows how to make zucchini bread, so you have to step up your game a little bit,” Sipple said. 

For more information, see the Northwest Indiana Food Swap Facebook page at NWI Food Swap.

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