A Valentine for neighbors
I’m not sure when I started thinking of it as “soup exchange.” It began when my neighbor, knowing I was working on deadline, knocked at my door and handed me servings of a pasta dish and a salad of jicama, mint, and melon. No soup was involved. But this lunch treat began a practice of sharing that came to feature soup often—hence, soup exchange.
I live among estimable neighbors. They’re kind, interesting, ready to step up at the slightest need. But the neighbors next door have a particular place in my heart. Perhaps it’s because our kids have grown up together. Perhaps it’s because, in this intergenerational household, I find friendship and guidance, sympathy and advice. But I’m certain that soup exchange is part of it.
Since that first offering of pasta and salad, we’ve shared many samplings from our kitchens. When I make a pot of soup, especially if it’s a new or favorite recipe, I cart a few servings next door. Back to my door, a few days later, will come another kind of soup or some other tasty treat. Since soup exchange got underway, I’ve come home some days to find a bowl heaped with cherry tomatoes or a container of tiny, sweet jalapeño peppers, fresh from a garden that, under my neighbors’ care, laughed at the drought. Half loaves of warm banana bread, studded with chocolate chips, have made their way from my kitchen to my neighbors’ door. Once, I found a crystal vase artfully arranged with fresh herbs—basil, rosemary, chives, and oregano—on my doorstep. When I returned the vase, soup went with it. Cake cookies, which my teenaged son can devour without consequence, come my way; herbed bread goes the other. Ingredients, too, make the trip, when one household or the other is short an egg or a few tablespoons of Dijon mustard. At what point, I’ve sometimes wondered, should we just merge our kitchens?
And so it has gone, for several years now. But no more. This generous household has grown, and my neighbors move this month into a larger house. I’m very happy for them. They need the space, and they’ll be only a few miles away. Still, I’ll miss the easy back-and-forth of shared daily life that we’ve had. The not-quite-thirty steps (yes, I’ve counted) from porch to porch are quickly traversed. I intend to make an effort to keep the exchange going, though now I’ll have to drive, with the soup du jour precariously positioned on the floorboard.
To my neighbors, thanks for the years of gracious side-by-side living. I’ll miss having you just steps away. And to the folks about to move in next door, welcome to our block of Georgetown! Know any good soup recipes?