F-O-O-D spells community

by piecurious

I wasn’t born a social butterfly and no one would dare call me much of one now. It has taken me years of silent observation and awkward imitation to cultivate the still somewhat muted level of social grace and tact that I have now. My father is a very independent and inward-focused man, choosing to socialize with books and tools rather than other human beings. He’s an electrician and works with systems. My mother, on the other hand, is very heartwarming and engaging. She excels at customer service.

Needless to say, when it comes to socializing, I’m clearly my father’s child despite having grown up only visiting on weekends. But as I push toward my thirties, I have been overwhelmed by the growing desire to build a strong social network and community. The reason for this, I think, is that I’ve finally developed a pretty accurate idea of who I am and what I value and therefore also the kind of people I’d like to surround myself with. And so it is only natural that I would embark on a journey to find them.

Enter the Food Swap.

Have you ever participated in a food swap? It’s a social event where individuals prepare food items to swap with others barter-style. I had never heard of the (modernized) concept before, but luckily someone else had—someone I happened to follow on Twitter—and, recognizing the dearth of food swap activity in the area, they took it upon themselves to host one. Despite being excited about the idea, I hesitated to sign up. What could I make that others would like? What if no one wants to trade with me? I was racked with feelings of uncertainty and low confidence. Not signing up seemed much safer.

And lonelier.

So I signed up without a clue as to what I’d prepare. There are times when you just need to jump before looking. This was one of them.

And it was worth it.

I was delighted by the people I met, by the conversations I had.  I made almond biscotti and my seedy and spiced red lentil crackers.  Not only did people like them, I left with enough food to last me the week: eggs from heirloom hens, spicy chick pea and sweet potato soup, chicken soup, cereal, goats milk soap and quite possibly some of the most deliciously tangy and smooth goats cheese I’ve experienced.

After a few moments of admiring everyone’s wares, I began to experience this particularly odd sense of familiarity.  As I spoke with the other participants, I was confronted with the nagging feeling that I knew them from somewhere, but I just could not pinpoint where.  Being a newcomer it seemed highly unlikely that I would have met any of these people before.

Later it dawned on me.  It wasn’t familiarity, but rather, deep-rooted understanding. I saw within each of the participants a reflection of some of my own interests and values—dedication to good, wholesome homemade food and the recognition that such food needs to be shared.

What I really felt was community.