Post image for Home Exchange Berlin 2011:   Trading Food

Home Exchange Berlin 2011: Trading Food

by John Mensinger on December 9, 2011

Getting ready for a house swap is always hectic, our partners were remodeling their apartment and the kitchen was ready the day they departed on vacation. They didn’t have time to worry about the fact they left masses of food in the refrigerator.

We welcome this kind of problem, which we have seen before. Step one is to check out the expiration dates on the fresh food. We sorted and graded the milk and yogurt, consuming the oldest first. Ditto for the cheese and processed meat products; the Germans make thousands of different products from pork. For breakfast they may eat on individual wood cutting boards, practical for cutting cheese or meat and putting on a fresh roll.

One advantage of home exchange is new experiences. You can’t count on eating your partner’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but it is a great way to try new types of foods. Shredded meat from pigs’ trotters with pork fat isn’t something I would ever purchase. When it cried out to me from the depths of the fridge I had to try it on fresh bread. I couldn’t eat just one bite and after a few days that was one less item filling the refrigerator. Coffee flavored yogurt with 10% fat is way too rich to buy in California but went down well on holiday.

Our partners supported organic producers; we enjoyed it all, including the organic beer. They had thoughtfully bought a few loaves of dark and nutty bread from the neighborhood bakery for us. Dense and tasty and perhaps the inspiration for dwarven battle bread as found in the novels of Terry Pratchett.

Our rule in home exchange is to provide an empty and clean refrigerator to our guests. They are welcome to use any food or drink in our house, except for bottles of wines and spirits, which they can open in an emergency. They can eat potatoes, pasta, rice, sauces, spices, snacks, etc. We will do the same in their house. We will shop during our exchange and the goal at the end is to leave about the same level of food as was there when we arrived.

Our friends in Berlin were doing three back to back exchanges, a total of ten weeks; we were being courteous in eating everything so the next family wouldn’t be confronted with a living fridge teeming with flora and fauna. I had purchased two children’s car seats for our partners in California; they asked how much they owed us for them. I explained that we had done an exchange, the car seats for a generous supply of typical local foods. Home exchange is about more than just the house.

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