We, as a society, have been conditioned from an early age to not accept food from strangers. What feels like common sense nowadays is a far cry from just a few short generations ago, when almost all things made and sold were created within the home. The explosion of industry via the Industrial Revolution pushed more and more production of consumer goods into the factories, leaving home producers unable to keep up with the high level of demand that produced these products en masse. Moreso, the attitude changed publicly, with fear of the homemade becoming an ever larger concern. As more and more people began to trust large corporations (which always works out in favor of the consumer, I type sarcastically), the death of homemade goods began to rapidly dwindle, and distrust grew. Add to this a rapidly expanding need for a 24-hour news cycle and the emergence of eye-catching news stories, and we began to be overrun with tales of children getting poisoned by candy and the fear grew into the urban myths of today.
I bring this up because Slow Food ABQ and the City of Albuquerque Open Space Visitor Center (6500 Coors Blvd. NW) are hosting their Annual Food Swap on Sunday Nov. 17 from 11am to 1pm. The goal of the event is for you to bring three to five homemade or homegrown food items to trade. This isn’t a buy and sell market, but an old school exchanging of goods that allows you to keep local pieces in the rotation of that items you keep around for everyday use. Whether that be homemade bread, jam, cheese or whatever your heart feels like making and trading, you can share your hard work with others.
I won’t lie, when I first heard of this, I laughed. The idea of people bringing food and sharing it sounded like the most dangerous thing I’d ever heard of. But I did a little digging and found the research to show that honestly, this is a safe space to do this. My skepticism was quashed by statistics that show we really don’t live in the most dangerous version of the world. Is there risk? Always, but that’s the generality of life. Danger is constantly around every corner, and to live closed off and away from everything is truly the worst way to exist. We need to learn to open up again and to trust those within our community.
This event is important for many reasons, the biggest of which is that we don’t know our neighbors anymore. I have become one of those people as an adult that I feared as a child, the man who never leaves his house or says hi to anyone in the neighborhood, the lawn you didn’t want your ball to ever land in for fear of approaching the property. Will my neighbors ever know I make a killer cheesecake? Probably not because I know if one of them came over and gave me a dessert, I’d be wary of it, and I don’t doubt they feel the same. Opening our hearts to what those around us create is important, and the Annual Food Swap allows us that sense of community to do it once again, just as our parents and grandparents did before us.
Circling back to our earlier discussion of the dangers of poisoned candy and foods, I did discover something fascinating. I, like many of you, know the world will always have individuals who opportunistically look for opportunities to harm others. When it comes to poisoning candy, I assumed the rate of danger would be not necessarily high, but at an occurrence enough so that the reports on the news would be worthwhile. According to a study published by Psychology Today, nearly all tampering cases are done by a family member or a friend, at a rate of one to two cases a year. Three-quarters of those cases have resulted in no significant harm, with the other one-fourth causing minor injuries and no deaths to date. In fact, of the five high-profile cases involving poisoning candy, four were misattributed to the candy and were either natural causes or murder by a family member, with the fifth being a way to cover up a father murdering his son, though no candy given out to any other children was consumed. What I’m trying to say here is that maybe we need to learn to trust one another again. Be vigilant, yes, but our neighbors aren’t our enemies. Annoying, sure, but out to harm us? I’m finding that highly doubtful.