I have been officially inducted into a club. Instead of membership fees, shmancy pants events, and exclusivity, this club is promoting an age-old practice of bartering. The Staple Luck Club is the brainchild of my friend, chef, and food consultant Gabriel Cole. He has been tinkering with the concept for years–knowingly and subconsciously–via random food projects, backyard duck tending, and foraging enthusiasm.
“The initial inspiration was hanging out with friends who love food and always swapping homemade edibles with people,” Cole explains. “Someone would bring me jam and I’d give them granola. A friend often brings me lettuce for my ducks, so I give her some red wine vinegar I make, etc. The idea behind [the club] is to foster community, stay low on the food chain, and save money by bartering. I also read a great book called Nowtopia which talks a lot about new forms of commerce.”
For members, the pure and simple concept is enticing: Make a bunch of one type of thing (ideally using quality, local ingredients when possible), and bring it to a monthly gathering where everyone else attending has done the same. Then swap-shop, trading your item for other items that catch your eye or appetite.
Bartering, of course, is far from a new system. It was, in fact, the very first form of commerce before money was developed. As societies formed, people would trade goods and services for the things they needed as opposed to going out and buying them. According to the New World Encyclopedia, cattle and other livestock were the first units for trade, followed by shells, and then eventually cold hard cash.
Nowadays we are moving even further away from cash as we all depend on credit cards and device-free money exchange straight out of our bank accounts. But bartering still takes place in some societies, most common for communities that either have no access to currency or have a very unstable economy. In our financial climate today, we are seeing a resurgence in bartering due to the current recession.
There are definitely comparable bartering clubs out there, from Brooklyn to Austin and London, and while they all celebrate the same concept of valuing handmade goods over federal currency, Staple Luck Club incorporates services as well. “What started as food only quickly became house staples beyond edibles. Now people want to exchange homemade laundry detergents and toothpaste, massages and haircuts, clothes mending, and yard work…so I say give the people what they want and the more money we can all save while hanging out, the better,” states Cole.
With our nation’s 99 percent grappling to have a voice against the one percent, the nourishment one can receive from “handmade with love” feels even more quenching these days. The community that develops over homemade recipes or personal services brings people into contact with each other–a reprieve from our often impersonal Internet world. Lucky for me, I can trade my product for a 10-minute massage, or bring along a pair of ripped jeans for repair in exchange for my jar of pear butter.
Bonanza Springs Farm Salt
11/2 ounces fine sea salt
¾ ounce fancy course salt (Pink Himalayan, Red Hawaiian, Sel Gris, Indian Black, etc.)
¼ ounce hand harvested, dried herbs or seeds (I have done combinations such as Greek Oregano and Dried Meyers Lemon Zest or Dill and Fennel Seed…It really just depends on what you have growing and what flavors you like best.)
Put the coarse salt and herbs, spices and/or seeds in a spice grinder. Pulse to combine, just to break up the ingredients and incorporate. Pour this mixture into a bowl and add the fine sea salt, mixing to fully combine. Place in a small jar or bag and swap with someone for something really great.