Monday, December 19, 2011

Grateful: Austin to Boston Foodswap and a New Friend

It's late on a Monday night, and I'm sipping coffee from a brand new Dunkin Donuts mug, thinking how happy I am to be part of an expanding network of food communities.

The latest expansion, and the source of the mug, is through the Austin to Boston Gift Swap, lovingly organized by the Austin Food Blogger Alliance and the Boston Food Bloggers. I was lucky enough to be matched up with the exceptionally thoughtful and interesting Kat Lynch, a blogger and soon-to-be-dietician. Kat is super inspiring - she runs; she lives her dreams; she makes nut butters at home. And she sends awesome gifts.

#ATXBOS: What I Received
Kat's box was stuffed with red-wrapped packages, each topped by a different iconic map of Boston and each containing little treasures, all packed together. Four of the cutest chocolate mice you could imagine, made by Burdick Chocolate in Harvard Square, peeked out of a squat mason jar. A signed picture book, adored by my 6-year old, told the story of Zachary's magic baseball and the Red Sox game it came from. Nut butter, full and fresh and wholesome came with a little note welcoming my family to some of the good stuff to come out of the Eating the Week kitchen. And my Dunkin mug, the one I'm drinking from now, showed up begging to be filled with good coffee. I am lucky to know Kat, and lucky to have gotten to know her better through the Boston goodies we've so enjoyed having in our home (and in our bellies)

#ATXBOS: What I Gave
It's a hard business figuring out what encapsulates Austin food. Breakfast tacos just don't travel that well, and Salt Lick rubs are not particularly useful to a vegetarian. Luckily, I am married to a woman of truly astounding creative inspiration, and together Tracy and I pulled (and stitched) together a box for Kat and her family. Round Rock Honey, from the farmers market near our house seemed like a good place to start; a little bottle of concentrated Austin wildflowers. And pecans, which, at least for me, suggest walks through Hyde Park in the summer, the nuts so plentiful that they crunch underfoot. It's not Austin without the Longhorns, and it's not a Christmas box if there's not chocolate, so Lamme's Candies Longhorns went in next, both dark and milk varieties. Then there's the Texas Olive Ranch Olive Oil, not from Austin, but from a little South of here, which I hadn't planned on at all, but which was just so suprising and lush when I encountered it at the Farmers Market that it had to make it in. Finally, in went a custom hand-made waitress-apron from Fair Morning Blue. Doesn't get much more local than that, since FairMorningBlue is Tracy's Etsy shop, with production facilities in our dining room.

I love being part of this community of food, love seeing the passion and openness that people on both sides of the exchange have given. I love the chance this process gave for some real collaboration with Tracy - who in addition to making the apron was the woman behind the camera for all these photos and the fingers behind the packaging. And I love that I got a chance to make a connection with someone living and working and writing out East. I travel every week, but rarely do I get to see into the life of the locals. This experience gave me a little taste of that. For all of these things, I'm grateful. Thank you to the AFBA, to Kat, and to Tracy for  making the Grubbus/Eating The Week swap such a pleasure.

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