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Yesterday I packed up my fourteen bags of homemade biscotti (one recipe from Cook’s Illustrated utilizing instant grits, one receipe from Maida Heatter with espresso and lots of chocolate) and headed to the Boston Food Swap. It was my first time attending this monthly event and it was…probably the most fun I’ve ever had at an event in Boston. Serious.

Despite the rain almost forty people showed up, carting their jars of lemon curd, their recycled bottles of kombucha, their tins of cardamum brown sugar simple syrup, their bags of flourless brownies made with dates and coconut, their jars of pickled ramps…

(both Birgit and I are into packaging…obviously. I used some ribbon from Angela Liguori, a wonderful Italian Brookline-based artist.)

I circled the room tasting everything, quizzing people on recipes, asking for advice on where they found certain ingredients, sharing excitement for our summer CSAs to kick in….

It was a local foodie’s dream date, and the best part is you really don’t have to be a “foodie” in any intimidating sense of the word. Some people brought trail mix, or chocolate covered pretzels, or grasshopper brownies—easy things that everyone loves to eat.

Then we scribbled down our offers on each other’s “bidding sheets” and shortly after that, chaos of trading ensued. My favorite part was learning that the person I hoped to trade with, also wanted to trade with me! Foodie kismet!

Here’s everything I came away with:

Rosemary shortbread, homemade chive cheese, cherry & apple chutney, pancetta, basil mozzarella, homemade salsa….wow!

So! You can google and see if there’s one of these in your town, there probably already is! If there isn’t, would you ever want to start one in your area? What would you bring?

Aleksandra also makes grilled cheese sandwiches with Gruyere and a sprinkling of white wine (before broiling), sliced comice pears sauteed in butter and sugar, coconut sticky rice, pasta with ‘just a little butter, Parmesan and black peper,’ and before bed a mug of hot milk sprinkled with freshly grated nutmeg….

In the winter, I have made hearty salads of smoked mackerel and red-skinned potatoes and accompanied them with braised leeks. I like to saute sausages and eat them with a mound of broccoli rabe, a lemon wedge and olive oil; and assemble platters of prosciutto, mortadella and duck liver pate with a tuft of parsley and caper salad. I might roast carrots and beets, and dip them into ricotta seasoned with olive oil and sea salt.

-Amanda Hesser, Cooking for Mr. Latte (currently reading)

This book is in the guise of a dizzy girl memoir, but it’s actually a beautiful pitch for savoring all the food you eat, and relishing the treats you allow yourself.

On the roadtrip, amongst dozens of delicious meals, I got positively sick of eating out. I longed for a full loaf of bread on the counter, a large wedge of orange cheese in the fridge, a gallon of orange juice, a toaster, a cupboard of simple soup possibilities, a bag of corn tortillas waiting to be tossed on the stovetop, a can of refried beans. The warm pictures of handcrafted meals that 3191 miles apart often fills their pages with are not, as I have been sometimes suspicious, glorified Martha Stewart-esque “perfect home” moments, but just a captured second of the delight we can create in our meager kitchens. Meager yet mighty kitchens. The magical satisfaction you can create with an avocado, a jar of mayonnaise, a pepper grinder, and a few slices of bread cannot be overstated. Or how about a slice of pumpkin bread–perhaps the world’s easiest bread recipe–slathered with peanut butter? Unstoppable.

I was recently puzzling over the treats that Winter promises us–Fall brings cider, apples, doughnuts, cute jackets that aren’t really warm, garlicky cranberry relishes–and wondering what they were. Early evenings? Extensive Netflix queue revamping? A higher percentage of red wine receipts? More balling and fuzzing of the sweaters? Maybe it’s that brisk and icy encouragement to stay inside for the evening and rummage through the tea bag selections, put in a good 45 minutes of vegetables chopping all for the sake of a murky stew, puzzle over a tricky pizza dough recipe, or find ways to live off a homemade loaf of bread for a few days.

Both photos from the lovely aforementioned 3191 Miles Apart.

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