I grew up in a neighborhood that, from the stories I tell, sounds like a scene from “Pleasantville.”
We didn’t have firemen rescuing cats from trees, but everyone knew each other. My friends and I would play hide-and-seek in the neighbors’ yards, adults would gather for coffee, and back doors were left unlocked.
We had block parties, tennis games in the street, and no problem popping next door to borrow an egg or a cup of sugar. When I visit my parents, I also catch up with the neighbors, showing pictures of my kids and marveling that theirs – who I once baby-sat – now have children of their own.
I want my children to grow up with similar memories, but it isn’t easy. Stay-at-home parents aren’t that common and kids are so busy with after-school activities that impromptu kickball games rarely happen. People are more transient these days, too. We’ve lived in our house for nearly five years and are considered “old timers” on our block.
If you ask me to name everyone on my street, I’d be hard pressed to identify at least half.
Our next-door neighbor came over with a loaf of friendship bread one day. A few weeks later, I gave her a plate of scones. She used her snow blower to clear our driveway earlier this month. We thanked her by leaving a bag of treats hanging on the front door. (It was an owl bag. My note said “Who’s a great neighbor?” I am just as “punny” in real life as I am in this column.)
It isn’t easy to recreate the neighborhoods we remember or see on television reruns, but a smile, a wave and a plate of baked goods can go a long way to creating a friendship.
The baked goods are key. Like Homer Simpson said: “You don’t win friends with salad.”
OLIVE OIL AND CORNMEAL CAKE
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil and flour a 9-inch cake pan, tapping out the excess flour, and line the bottom with parchment paper, or oil and flour a 9-inch spring form pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar and crème fraîche. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined (do not over mix). Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool for at least 30 minutes on a wire rack before unmolding.
If using a cake pan, invert the cake onto a plate, remove the parchment, and invert again to serve the cake top side up. For the spring form pan, remove the ring and use a spatula to slide the cake onto a plate.
Source: The Good Neighbor Cookbook by Sara Quessenberry and Suzanne Schlosberg (Andrews McMeel Publishing; January 2011)
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