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Guelph serving up a food swap - with a twist

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If you're the kind of person who brings Rice Krispie squares to a potluck, a food swap – the hot new foodie event – might not be for you.

Guelph, Ont., is the latest city to organize one, a gathering at which sophisticated home cooks trade jars of mango chutney for sourdough starter at scheduled gatherings. The event takes place on Oct. 5.

The trend has taken off in the usual foodie cities in the United States – New York, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore. Toronto recently played host to the Toronto Underground Market, where dozens of chefs and home cooks sold Scotch eggs and salted caramel macaroons to the hungry hordes.

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But unlike Toronto's event, at Guelph's GO Food Swap, you can only "buy" goods with those you made yourself. This distinction gives it the folksy charm of bartering, but there's another perk for organizer Kelly Hughes, a local chef: "Because no money changes hands, you don't have to be inspected."

One participant has signed up to bring heirloom eggs, laid by her backyard chickens. The only quality-control measure is preregistration, in which participants list contact information.

There's a bit of a competitive edge at play at these events, as no one wants to be left with a table full of his or her own preserves.

"There's a lot of old-fashioned state-fair quality," Ms. Hughes says. "Who makes the best pickles?"

She's encouraged participants to "push the envelope a bit." Early registrants have promised gluten-free baking, relishes and lavender sachets (not everything has to be edible).

As she's learned from chatting with organizers of a Portland food swap, it's anybody's guess which items will prove most popular.

"They said the potted elk was a huge hit."

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