The last time I had a pen pal was in 6th grade. Her name was Sophie and she was frumpy-looking and British. But she wrote great letters.
I have some new pen pals this month. Neither is British or named Sophie, I don't know what either one looks like, and we send each other boxes of food instead of long letters.
We all signed up for Foodie Pen Pals, a program designed by fellow food blogger Lindsay at the Lean Green Bean. Participants get matched with two people each month: a pen pal to send a box to, and another to receive one from. We email back and forth, asking about each other's likes and dislikes, interests, and food preferences. We shop and bake, packing boxes for strangers that are filled with things we love, things we hope they might love, and things that say something about each of us in some small way.
My sender pen pal, Donna M, shipped me a box all the way from South
Carolina. I told her I liked to eat healthily, but that I'd be the
first to admit I loved sweets, especially chocolate. I also like to try
foods from other cultures, something Donna was happy to help with. She
-TWO kinds of Godiva!
-chocolatey caramel-y granola bars
-chocolate-covered dried plums
-creme brulee mix
-soba and udon noodles
-Asian snack mix
Donna included plenty of chocolate in my box. Obviously, it didn't take
her long to figure me out! I'm pretty sure getting a box with chocolate
in the mail is one of life's best moments. The package of steel-cut oats
even has a recipe for chocolate chip cookies on it, which I will be
Donna told me that her grandmother
was Japanese, and she used to eat the rice cracker snack mix with her
when her grandmother was alive. It was clear to me that the snack mix
was important to Donna, and reminded her of someone special. I think
this is also why she chose the two kinds of noodles, both of which I
love too, and I was touched that she would include such personal
information in her letter to me, tucked inside the box.
My recipient pen pal, Jenna M, said she likes to eat healthily most of the time too, loves to try
new energy bars, loves nuts of all kinds, and prefers sweet to salt. I
was tempted to fill her box with about 39 kinds of chocolate, but kept
reminding myself that a) it's about 1 zillion degrees out and chocolate
will melt in the mail, and b) chocolate is what I love, not necessarily
what she loves. So for Jenna I packed:
-a chocolate-covered greens energy bar
-a spice grinder from Trader Joe's that has coffee beans, sugar, and chocolate in it
-homemade toasted almonds with rosemary and salt
-a little bag of Himalayan pink rock salt
The Himalayan rock salt was slightly outside of her
parameters, but because it can be used in savory dishes as well as
sweets such as caramel, I thought she might like to try it. Plus, it's
just pretty. I sneaked little bits of chocolate in her products to try, but chocolate wasn't the dominant flavor in the box. Judging from Jenna's enthusiastic thank-you email, I think she liked her box! Visit her Facebook page to see her photos and comments about the experience.
I can't think of a better way to connect with strangers than through food, and while this program has the potential to get a bit pricey (most of us used flat rate Priority Mail boxes, which are around $12 to ship, plus there is the cost of the food items themselves), I will definitely participate again. There is something comforting about receiving food, and better still, someone else does the shopping.