It can happen to the best of us in the kitchen.
You get so into the drama of making something—whether it’s your grandma’s thumbprint cookies or lacto-fermented heirloom peppers you grew yourself—that you forget you don’t need enough to feed 180 people.
"Now what?" you might ask yourself. "What am I going to do with 16 pints of homemade ketchup?" Wipe those tears, darling. I've got just the thing: a food swap party.
Food swaps are little get-togethers to which you bring your surplus homespun goodies and, well, swap them for other people's surplus. Got too much plum jam? No worries, Maggie has marmalade in spades. Overdid it on the piccalilli? S'cool, Johnny's swimming in dilly beans.
Swap, Swap, Swap It Up
So how do you get in on this action? It's pretty easy, really. First, make a bunch of swappable stuff. It can be homemade chicken liver pate, bread, bottles of homebrew, even just plain raw zucchini from your garden. Whatever you're into these days, just make a bunch of it.
Second, team up with a friend or two and come up with a pithy name for your food swap group. I just came up with one right now: "Clod Hoppers and Food Swappers." You can totally use that if you want. Having partners in crime means you do less work, and we like that. Set up some guidelines that work for you. It can be as simple as "you had to make it yourself," or "it must be edible."
Third, put social networking to work for you: Start a Facebook page and/or Twitter account for your group to make coordination easy. It also helps if people RSVP and say what they're bringing so you can keep it interesting (instead of ending up with five different versions of the same thing).
Finally, start inviting your homeskillets (RL and e-friends alike) over for a li'l shindig. Have your guests bring a potluck dish in addition to their swap items so you don't get stuck holding the bag (hosting parties can get spendy). The party can be as simple as laying out a few long picnic tables dressed up with a tablecloth, or you can go full Martha on it and break out your collection of swear-word needlepoint tea towels to coordinate with bouquets of lilacs. This is the time to add your flair.
Tips For Smooth Sailing
Decide ahead of time if you're going to ask everyone to bring enough for everybody (e.g., if there are six guests, each guest brings six of their swap item), or if you're going to let people barter. If you go for the latter (helpful in larger food swaps), make slips of paper so folks can write down their names and "claim" an item. It doesn't mean they'll get it, but it helps interested parties get to talking. Also, bring a few extra pens and stickers in case people forgot to label their items. Ask your guests to make a little sign for their item that either lists the ingredients or includes need-to-know info like "gluten-free" or "contains dairy." Have fun, and rake in the spoils!