Food aficionados from experienced chefs to traditional home cooks gathered Tuesday evening in Piermont to trade homemade burnt aillade sauce, made of garlic and walnuts, for pickled nectarines and to swap babka for sherry peppers.
Thirteen epicures braved the cold and rain to attend Rockland County's first food swap, a growing phenomenon in Brooklyn and elsewhere imported to the Lower Hudson Valley by personal chefs Rachel Mack of and Phyllis Segura, who met through Facebook even though they live in neighboring villages, Grandview and Piermont respectively.
"This area has a lot of creative personalities interested in good food," said Mack. "Food swaps are all over the country. I was surprised they were not already here. Rockland County has a good personality for a food swap."
Held at the Piermont Reformed Church, which was founded in 1839 and overlooks the Sparkill Creek, the swap helped lift spirits in a community where Hurricane Sandy remains topical.
"My own personal mission is to come together as a community to encourage economic development, and a food swap is a good way to start," Mack said.
Inside the church meeting room, participants carefully displayed their meticulously packaged handcrafted foods on wooden folding tables. All signed a release stating they were aware of the risks in acquiring and eating foods not prepared in licensed kitchens or factories.
Over the next 90 minutes or so, amid conversation that turned from food and cooking to spouses and work, swappers made rounds and placed written bids for items, listing what food they were offering in exchange. Trades can be declined.
Many of the items were labor-intensive. Tamika Adjermian, author of Belle Jar Canning blog, spent three days preparing her membrillo paste, a Spanish jam made of quince. "It takes a lot of work to make. Twelve hours total of stirring. I made it after Hurricane Sandy, when I had no electricity but gas on the stove," Adjermian said.
Philip Denlinger from Monsey, who pickled peppers, and Ted Alexander of Pomona, who made spiced pecans, were the two men in the group.
Dara Erck, a recent Nyack transplant from Brooklyn, brought Greek spanakopita packaged and tied with ribbon and tags artfully inked by her Spanish au pair. "The Brooklyn swaps have younger people. More hipsters," Erck said. "Next time I'll bring some of my friends."
At the end of the swap, personal chef Janice Van Buskirk gathered the bag of goodies she got in exchange for her aillade sauce and gluten-free chestnut cake. "It feels like Christmas," she said.
But the proudest swapper of the evening was 81-year-old Adele Mack, who traveled from Amherst, Mass., to support her daughter Rachel's first food swap. The elder Mack brought banana bread. She, too, was all traded out.
The next Rockland Food Swap is scheduled for Feb. 26 at the Piermont Reformed Church, which will again donate the space. For more information, go to Rockland NY Food Swappers website.
D.Z. Stone is a freelance writer