Monday, August 16, 2010

Be a Neighbor

Last night we had dinner with the neighbors.  It's been a tradition with us for about three years now, even though we've managed to cycle through two sets of neighbors since we began. Sometimes we plan a progressive dinner between our three houses, but last night was much simpler: a BBQ with potluck sides.

I made mashed potatoes and gluten-free ice cream sandwiches (homemade gf cookies, Blue Bell Vanilla Ice Cream) and brought over two bison steaks.  Unfortunately, Jon wasn't feeling too well, so I was solo for the evening.

When I arrived, the hosts, Matt and Katie, already had the grill fired up and were cooking venison sausage, a particular guilty pleasure of my own.  Katie had also made her delicious macaroni and cheese (a favorite prior to the gf diagnosis) and a vibrant salad made of black beans, corn, peppers, tomatoes, and avocado.

While we waited for our new neighbors to join us for their inaugural neighbor dinner, we sipped on wine and caught up on each others' lives.  Matt and Katie have lived next door for over two years now.  They replaced Chris and Lori, a nice couple, but one whose discomfort with our progressive politics and lifestyle created a gentle unease whenever we were together.  Contrary to Chris and Lori, Matt and Katie are easy to get along with and fun-loving.

The venison sausage Matt is grilling is made from a deer he shot and killed earlier this year.  It was his first kill, even though he was raised in a conservative small town in Texas, where I would assume every thirteen year old boy is taken on a rite-of-passage hunting trip.  As I've never been hunting and the largest things I have killed in my culinary adventures were lobsters, I asked him to tell me a little it.

We didn't get to chat very long long, but during that brief conversation, there was definitely a deep concern and compassion present in the experience for him, and I could see that the hunt was not something he saw just as sport.  I assume the experience is a bit jarring for anyone, and Matt has definitely set some guidelines for himself when it comes to hunting:  shoot to kill and not wound, hunt animals that are over-populated, and use what you kill for food.

I like the idea of being intimately connected with our source of food, and... I hesitate to say this... I do think I would be comfortable with Matt's personal guidelines if I had to apply them to myself.  Lately, I've been seriously mulling the thought that if I'm willing to eat meat, I should also be willing to kill it.  Not that I need to go out and slaughter every chicken or buffalo that I eat, but I should at least acknowledge that an animal had to die for me to live and that I would indeed be willing to take its life in order to enjoy my meal.

But this subject is for another post... back to the neighbor dinner.

In time, Kimberly and Kasey, our new neighbors, joined us bearing gifts from their recent trip to the Hill Country: fresh peaches, Texas wine, and wine-infused chocolates.  They've lived across the street for a month or two, having replaced our good friend Andrea who moved to Seattle.  While it was sad to see Andrea leave us, Kimberly and Kasey have easily assimilated themselves into our little neighborhood. Very friendly and out-going, Kimberly and Kasey readily engage in conversation and have already added to the vibe of our existing neighborliness.

Our evening was quite wonderful.  We enjoyed the delicious food and sparkling fellowship, getting to know each person's personal story while sharing the gifts we each brought to the table.  All in all, a great way to spend an evening.

Scheduling our neighbor dinners is usually a Herculean effort, requiring each couple to struggle and negotiate with their calendars to find an open evening.  But, once we are together and sharing the neighborly goings on over wine and dinner, the value in the hassle and work is self-evident.  For the two hours we spend chatting and sharing, the friendliness and diversity of this city is focused into a tiny dining room in the Heights.  And, for me, this feels like home.

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