Food Swapping with Emily Paster – An O2O Author Interview

food-swapDo you love to garden but end up with more than you can possibly consume? Do you experiment with new recipes but need something to do with all your results? Does your holiday shopping list include flour, sugar, and butter because you give the gift of cookies? Then it’s probably time for you to start or find a food swap in your city and Emily Paster can tell you all you need to know to get started!

What is a food swap you ask? Food Swap Network defines it as, “a recurring event where members of a community share homemade, homegrown, or foraged foods with each other. Swaps allow direct trades to take place between attendees, e.g., a loaf of bread for a jar of pickles or a half-dozen backyard eggs.”

Intrigued? Read on!

emily pasterO2O: What is your book about?

EP: Part cookbook, part how-to guide, Food Swap is the first book to come out of the international food swap movement. In it, I trace the history of modern food swapping and offer guidance on starting a food swap in your own community, as well as share inspiring stories from people who are part of this growing movement. Food Swap also features more than 80 recipes for artisanal items that will be coveted at food swaps and adored as gifts, including preserves, baked goods, granolas, cheeses, pestos, roasted nuts, flavored salts, and specialty spices — everything from salted caramel sauce and Meyer lemon curd to green tomato salsa, lavender shortbread, cultured butter, apricot jalapeno jelly, and rum vanilla extract. You’ll also find creative ways to irresistibly package your items, and the book even includes perforated gift tags ready for personalization.

O2O: The book’s tag line eludes to the “world’s best salted caramel sauce”. Tell us a little more about this sauce. Where did it come from? Who inspired it? Is it a popular food swap item?

EP: The salted caramel sauce is inspired by a trip to Paris with my husband in 2012. We ate crepes at this little restaurant in the Marais with a salted caramel sauce that blew my mind. It’s a less sweet and more buttery version of caramel then you see in America. I tried to recreate that flavor with my recipe. Caramel sauce is definitely a very popular swap item and this particular version of it has been a huge hit. What I love about it is that a jar of an artisanal salted caramel sauce like this one will cost $10 or $15 in a store. It’s just butter, cream and sugar, people! You can make it yourself for a fraction of that price. Or, if you intimidated to make caramel yourself, trade something that you are comfortable making for a jar of someone else’s caramel sauce. That’s the beauty of the food swap.

O2O: What was your inspiration for writing this book?

EP: I founded the Chicago Food Swap, one of the largest in the country, in 2011 and have been hosting these monthly gatherings where home cooks and gardeners barter and trade their homemade and homegrown foods for years. In that time, I have also mentored many people who wanted to start or grow a food swap in their own community. It occurred to me that I could spread the word about the food swap movement more effectively with a book. In addition, I was so inspired by the creativity and skill of the swappers who attended my events and other food swaps around the country, that I was inspired to write a cookbook with these recipes. The recipes are not just useful for food swapping but also edible gifting, bake sales and cooking for a crowd.

O2O: This is the first book about the modern food swapping movement; did you have any trepidation about taking on that designation or about being the first to write about it?

EP: I was very excited to write the first book about food swapping. I think food swapping is a concept that many people are still not familiar with and once they hear about it, they love the idea. I think I am in a great position to write the first book about food swapping because I have created one of the largest and most active food swap groups in the country, the Chicago Food Swap, and as such have first-hand experience with what works and what doesn’t work when starting, growing or joining a food swap. My only trepidation was that I was not the person who launched the modern food swap movement. That was Kate Payne and Megan Paska. And I did not want to be seen as taking credit for something I did not do. But in the book I trace the history of how the food swap movement got started and give credit to the early pioneers. And I was lucky that Kate Payne agreed to write the Foreword to my book.

O2O: What surprised you most about the writing process?

EP: Some parts came so easily and others were like pulling teeth! One thing that amazed me was how willing people were to help me and share their expertise. I was able to interview lawyers on legal questions, PR professionals on how to reach out to the press and more. Tell people that you are writing a book and want to buy them a cup of coffee and interview them and you will be amazed at how happy they are to help.

O2O: What were your writing habits?

EP: I had to develop recipes in my kitchen of course, but I did a lot of the writing at the public library. It really helped to get out of the house and focus. I even thank the library staff in my Acknowledgements! I also found that, mentally, I needed to know that I had a large chunk of time in which to work. Trying to write an hour here or there was challenging for me and since I have two kids, it was hard to find those big blocks of time! I had to be very protective of my schedule and not schedule too many calls, meetings or even lunch dates when I was on deadline to give myself the time I needed to get into the rhythm. Lastly, I made a schedule for myself. I signed a contract and had to deliver the manuscript a year later. That’s hard to wrap your mind around! My husband helped me break the work into pieces and create a monthly schedule to keep me moving forward and stay on pace to have the work completed on time.

O2O: What was the best advice that another writer gave you about writing?

EP: My mother is an academic and has written many books, although not cookbooks. She had a lot of helpful advice, such as to think of the book in pieces, not as a one huge thing because that can be intimidating.

O2O: What advice would you give to someone who wants to write a book?

EP: Who said that 80% of life is just showing up? If you want to write a book and think you have a great idea or a compelling story, sit down and write a proposal! I know so many people who tell me that they have this great idea or a publisher approached them about writing a book and then they never actually write the proposal. This is not a small undertaking. The proposal can take months, but it is a great opportunity to flesh out your idea and to determine how unique and how marketable your idea is. All of this will help you not only get a book deal but will help you write the actual book. Also, make sure your proposal is very well-written! Editors want to work with authors who will not need heavy editing. A well-written proposal is a signal to editors that you will be easy to edit. I also recommend getting an agent. Not only will an agent shop your book to publishers, but she will also help make your proposal better and, when you do get an offer, she will negotiate the best contract for you.

O2O: Will you write another book?

EP: Yes!

Food Swap will be released on May 17th! Pre-order it here:

Giveaway! (closed)

Emily will have a freshly released copy of Food Swap for a lucky One2One Network member! To enter the giveaway, leave a comment telling us your favorite food item to give (or receive) as a gift. Giveaway ends Monday, May 23rd, 2016, winner will be notified via email on May 24th.

***Congrats to Lindsey H., comment #1, on winning the copy of Food Swap!***


More about Emily

A lawyer by training, Emily Paster launched a second career in food writing and social media in 2010 when she started her website West of the Loop, which has been named “a family food blog to savor.” Emily’s print work on food and entertaining appears regularly in Chicago publications. One of Emily’s areas of expertise is home food preservation and she teaches canning classes and demonstrations around the Chicago area. Emily has developed recipes for such clients as Artizone Chicago, an online grocery delivery service, Door to Door Organics, Michigan apple distributor Riveridge Produce, and Cabot Creamery Cooperative.

Emily’s passion for celebrating home cooks led her to co-found the Chicago Food Swap in 2011. In May of 2014, Emily signed a contract with Storey Publishing to write the very first book about food swapping to be published in May 2016. Emily appears regularly on Chicago-area television and radio, including appearances on WGN’s Midday News, WCIU’s “You & Me This Morning,” Fox News’s “Good Day Chicago” and local NPR affiliate WBEZ’s “The Morning Shift.” In addition, she has been quoted in major print publications, including the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times on issues relating to food swapping, parenting, work-life balance and nutrition. Emily speaks frequently at agriculture and social media industry conferences on such topics as ethics, monetization and the new face of consumer influence.

*No Purchase Necessary. Void Where Prohibited By Law. Entry period will run from Tuesday, May 10, 2016 through midnight (PT), Monday, May 23, 2016. Entries must be received in those time frames to be valid. Contest is open to One2One Network members, 18 years of age or older, and a resident of the United States of America. Winner will be chosen via random draw and notified via email. Please see Official Rules for Giveaways.


  1. Lindsey H says:

    I always seem to have bananas that get too ripe, so whipping up some banana bread is my go-to item for sharing with others!

  2. I love receiving spice blends and sauces that I can use to add creativity to my own cooking!

  3. I love giving boxes of mini cupcakes wrapped in pretty ribbon to neighbors and friends! Sometimes I give them individually in a small plastic cup in a cellophane bag with ribbon. Everyone loves cupcakes!