I first heard about the Portland Preservation Society on Instagram. I can’t remember exactly who’s feed it was mentioned on (maybe Anne‘s or Jen‘s or Emily‘s or Brooke‘s), but the idea was immediately intriguing. I was familiar with the idea of canned food swaps, but I’d never been to one. It seemed a little crazy to drive all the way to Portland (about two hours) just to meet up with a bunch of people I found on the internet, but I had a pantry overflowing with canned goods that we’d never be able to eat our way through, and I guess I was looking for an excuse to visit the big city, so I went.
I planned on spending most of the day in Portland by myself, which seemed like quite a luxury, not because I don’t get time away from my kids…I do, but having time away from my kids AND being free from chores/work/errands AND getting to just be in an unfamiliar but fun place doesn’t happen very often (read: never). I considered scheduling dates with various friends in Portland or scoping out possible Red Onion Woodworks stockists, but I decided to keep things pretty simple an open instead of running around feeling like I had to do everything in a single day. Hopefully, there will be future days spent in Portland getting real work done.
I made a point of starting out at the newly-opened Tabor Bread on Hawthorne (more on this soon), and from there I did a little shopping at Buffalo Exchange. I got a coffee at Albina Press and leisurely made a go at the Oregonian crossword. Mostly though, I just spent a lot of time walking the streets through cute Portland neighborhoods.
The Portland Preservation Society meeting was hosted by Anne Parker who lives in quite possibly the cutest old house in Portland. Anne and I had exchanged a few emails/Instagram comments, but we’d never met in person before. I’m actually pretty new to and still a little nervous about meeting people that I’ve come to know online. It’s not that I’m afraid I’ll be murdered or something. It’s more an anxiety about living up to this image that my blog readers and online friends may have of me. I have a tendency to get really awkward and embarrassed when talking about myself to strangers or new friends, so throwing myself into a room of strangers and new friends can be a little intimidating. Fortunately, Anne was super warm and welcoming, and I managed to not make a total ass out of myself. I think it helped that I brought good stuff to share for the potluck dinner and for the canned goods swap.
After plenty of bread and cheese and soup (and wine for everyone else who didn’t have a long drive home), we got started on the actual exchange. There were about 16 of us gathered around a table the dining room. Each of us had previously set out 5-8 jars of something homemade. I brought three quarts of bread and butter pickles, three half pints of hot pepper jam, and two half pints of plum jam, a little more than the minimum requirement because I was trying to clean out the pantry as well as make a good impression. Each person had a moment to “sell” his or her wares, explaining what it was and what one might do with it.
Then the picking began. We went around the circle, each person taking a turn grabbing a jar of choice. After the first round, the last person to pick got to start the second round and so on until everyone had as many jars as he or she brought. I was stoked to bring home the following: cranberry curd, sweet and hot dipping sauce, pickled brussels sprouts, pickled carrots, pickled onions, and some lapsang souchong jelly. There’s a part of me that gets a little nervous about the food safety of home canned goods of relatively unknown origin, but I figured it was hard to go wrong with things that were good and pickled or had plenty of sugar in them. The other members of the group also put me at ease by demonstrating impressive knowledge of food preservation practices. (I avoided several different marmalades and two varieties of bacon jam not because I was worried about it but because I’m not a big fan of bitters or pork.)
Overall, I had a great time and was really glad I made the effort to get there and step out of my comfort zone far enough to meet some really nice folks. The next PPS meeting is coming up on January 9, and I’m already trying to see if I can swing it schedule-wise.
I’ve heard about these types of groups springing up in cities and towns all over the country, but if you can’t find a group in your area, maybe you should start one. It’s fun!