15 Tales of Thoughtful Giving from Our Holiday Swap

December  9, 2016

Five years ago, Food52er Noëlle (a.k.a. enbe) started our now-annual Holiday Swap with a simple post on the Hotline, calling for interested participants to join in a holiday food exchange. (Read more about her here.)

Recently, when talking about the Swap, she shared with us that every year she gets “a few really touching emails that remind [her] that we could all use a little extra joy from afar during the holidays.”

And in the spirit of spreading a little extra joy, we wanted to share some of those very stories with you. Here are 15 of our favorite from past Holiday Swaps:

local flavor

I cried when I got my swap gift last year: Home (NYC) was feeling very long ago and far away (which, in fact, it is) and then a package of real bagels arrived with a ceramic mug that looked like an old school deli cup (also some great coffee) and it was truly a taste of home—wonderful and perfect. The mug has oddly become my go-to whiskey mug, which, in retrospect, is maybe not so very odd, more like an old habit.

My first swap, I was sent a box of goodies from Seattle. I grew up in the PNW and hadn't been back home to visit in nearly a year when I received the box. It had been a completely hectic year of moving, job transitions, and the declining health of several loved ones. It made me so happy and homesick! It was thrilling to have a whole bag of Tim's Cascade Chips on the East Coast!

Receiving olive oil from a family's olive grove in Greece was definitely a highlight!

My first year doing the swap, my sender opted to make her package reflect what Portland is good at by using local products: She sent me an amazing cheese and an actual beer! It was awesome!

it's a small world

The person who got me last year just happened to be from my hometown (3000+ miles from where I live now) and graduated from the same high school (although close to 20 years after me). It was an awesome holiday surprise.

I still keep in touch with my first gifter. We have yet to meet but regularly chat and share stories and health and cooking tips/ideas. We're each other's cheerleaders. I feel like I have known her most of my life. I was floored by her swap gift to me two years ago and, moreover, grateful for her friendship ever since.

I was excited last year when the box I received was from someone in Cincinnati, as my brother lives there. I sent him a picture of the box and its contents, and lo and behold, he was friends with the sender! Everyone thought it was pretty rad.

Last year my swapper and I both gave each other cards from the same artist. Great minds!

gifts that have kept on giving

I never thought silicone muffin liners were necessary for a kitchen, but after I got some last year, I'm always amazed at how great they are!! Definitely the key to making mini molten chocolate cakes for dinner parties.

I tend to savor my swap treats...there are still some sitting in my cabinet from previous years because I want to use them for just the right recipe or occasion. It makes the swap a continual presence in our kitchen.

I received a fantastically thoughtful holiday swap from Singapore that included so many wonderful things—the quintessential Singaporean kitchen towel still hangs in my kitchen!

from the heart

Last year, Rebecca in St. Paul sent a box all the way to Alaska with an incredible amount of handmade and local goodies: shallots, sweet potatoes, wild rice, maple syrup, and these five adorable peanuts she had grown herself. She had hand-written notes with each item and, for the peanuts, mentioned that she was only able to grow a few that year. I felt honored and humbled to receive so many of those tiny tubers, knowing she had given up prized treats to her Food52 swap partner!

The year my daughter was born (2013), she came 4 weeks early and I still managed to mail out my swapper's box (good thing I can jams in summer!). When my swapper's box arrived, I discovered they'd included a swaddle for my newborn daughter! They also gave me cooked-down apples, which I saved and fed as a first food to my daughter, exactly as they said they did for their kid. That's my favorite swap year. It was beautiful, thoughtful kindness in the middle of a really overwhelming situation.

Two years ago, I became ill and had to move back to my home town to live with family. It last-minute thing and in the course of a whole lot of confusion and turmoil, I missed the email listing my swapee's name. By the time I found it in January, I was horrified to realize someone out there did not get their holiday swap gift. I wasn't [at a place] in my life to be able to spend time cooking unfortunately. But I am an illustrator, so I wrote to my swapee, all apologies, offering a few different choices for art I could create as a gift instead, one of which was a pet portrait. The woman wrote back right away: She had just lost her beloved pug the week before and was so happy to be able to get a portrait of her dog. It all seemed like it was meant to be in the end.

I have been participating for two years now. Both packages I have received have been lovely, but last year's package was awe-inspiring. It was truly motivational, and such a lovely reminder of the beauty and joy and love that still remains in this world. We may be in some tumultuous times right now, but the Food52 Holiday Swap is a reminder that there is still happiness in the world. And such a wonderful way to find holiday joy in your mailbox.

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