Review-Foodie Exchange

Foodie Exchange from Montreal, Canada April 2010

Its a novel concept: exchange foodstuffs with like-minded foodies around the world.

Communicate and make friends through food. Isn’t that what we do everyday? This just expands our reach. What a great way to find new friends who share the passion for food, who are curious about the food in your region. Further, I believe, the food that is around us makes us who we are-quite literally.

So I was pretty excited to stumble upon this concept. The rules are straightforward. 1) there is a dollar limit on what you can spend for your package: $10. 2) Participate as frequently (or not) as you’d like.

Naturally, there are some challenges to shipping food, but there are even recommendations and videos on the site for ways to do so. I was enthusiastic to receive regional treats from around the world. I offered up honey made in Hawaii, organic natural spices made here in addition to poke mix and coconut syrup. I said I would even ship a pineapple, but that it was expensive.

Within minutes of joining, I agreed to a foodie exchange with the moderator and founder of the site who lives in Montreal, Canada. Her profile mentions several foods including maple syrup. I remembered my time in Montreal, despite the fact that I was there alone on business, the city really inspired me and the rocked my world. Tucked into corners of long alleys were tiny restaurants managed by their purveyors, with chef’s who took pride.  The simplest foods seemed to taste better there.  I fell in love with real maple syrup in Montreal. So with this exchange,  I asked for maple syrup. Even before I finished typing I’d already imagined the taste of maple syrup not off the shelf of some corporate grocery. My husband almost cried when I mentioned it to him. We imagined it on pancakes, on oatmeal. We were literally wringing our hands in anticipation.

A quarter of the way around the world, my enthusiasm drove me straight to the Farmer’s Market. There I purchased a sweet local honey made from bees pollinating macadamia nut and coconut trees. I grabbed a bag of black lava salt which takes the toxins out of food and I stopped to get organic Kona Coffee spices, one of my favorites and some locally made papaya seed dressing. My particular package exceeded $10, but I was so excited at the thought of sending it, I ignored the rules. I wrote a nice long explanation on each product, why I sent it and why I chose items from the Farmer’s Market.

Shipping my items caused me concern. Moving product in and out of Hawaii is difficult and in my life, I have had a notoriously inadequate experience sending things to Canada, be it a simple letter or large product shipment. Really. Once a letter I sent to a distant crush arrived months later. Despite this, I didn’t send the package priority as it was, my 1st class postage was more than the foodstuffs. Wringing my hands and hoping for the best, I excitedly announced on Twitter that my package was on its way. Meanwhile, visions of maple syrup danced in my head.

My food exchange arrived before my partner received hers, which immediately caused me agita. My foodie friend in Montreal soothed my anxiousness and assured me it would be fine.

The day I was leaving for a trip, in my mailbox was my little gift from Canada. I was so excited I couldn’t stand it.  Despite the hurried last minute packing calling my name, I couldn’t wait another minute for that maple syrup. Anxiously, I tore open the package and found a ziplock baggie of mixed spices, honey candies (for tea?) some sample Lipton teas in flavors not typically found in the States, an adorable sample of apricot jam and maple flakes along with a note explaining that maple syrup costs about $10 these days and so there would have been nothing else. To say that I wasn’t disappointed would be a lie. I was. I know the maple flakes will be a spectacular stand-in though.

Upon return from my trip, the teas were the first thing I dug into. I drink a lot of herbal teas and My Montreal tea was a nice change of pace. And the honey candies were splendid in the tea or on their own. The apricot jam was a burst of spring time and a welcomed addition to breakfast toast. We don’t get a lot of apricot around here and it was tasted like summers of my youth. Not sure what I will do with the ziplock baggie of spices; I understand the idea of re-packaging bulk spices to save money, but there is something off-putting about receiving a baggy of anything from a stranger.

So I learned: stick with the $10 limit, because your exchange partner will too. Ask questions in advance about what someone will send and mention it to them if you aren’t comfortable and conversely, tell your exchange partner in advance of what you plan to send. In short: communicate. Consider using priority mail within USA, if possible. Is the least expensive shipping method and gets there in 2 days.

None the less, over all, I’d the say the experience was a good one. Good enough that I have already agreed for another exchange, this time for fresh morel mushrooms. I’m not sure how it will go for my next foodie to ship mushrooms, but having learned a few things on this go ’round I’m willing to try again. My next exchange will have to wait until morels are ready, but when they are..I’ll be ready too.

If your interested in participating, its a growing group of international foodies: Foodie Exchange

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About Tara DeWitt Coomans

An aspiring cook and an accomplished eater, Tara is inspired by the world around her and the food on her plate. "When you can't jump on a plane and take a vacation to an exotic destination, chances are you can whip up a dish or go to a restaurant that will take you there." says Tara. She often eats out at a restaurant after trying to accomplish a given dish at home. None the less, she enjoys food and what it says about the human experience. Tara is a full-time freelance writer and blogger. She specializes in writing about food, cooking and travel. You can find her in the kitchen, on the plane or at her computer.