A family from another country moved to a city where I work and the husband asked if he could bring us a traditional meal. He said it was common in his country when you moved to bring food to your neighbors as a way to become part of the new community and new culture.
When I was a kid way back in the 1960s it was the opposite. When someone new moved into your neighborhood, you took food to the new family as a way to welcome them. It was a common thing to make a casserole or bake a pie and go to the stranger’s house and introduce your family.
Does that still happen? I’m trying to remember when wanting to welcome someone new turned into fear of going to a stranger’s door.
Maybe in the 1970s when razor blades started appearing in Halloween candy. That was around the time kids stopped running freely and unchaperoned through their neighborhoods knocking on a stranger’s door.
Maybe when children started disappearing more frequently. That was around the time kids couldn’t stay out playing on their own until the streetlights came on to remind you to run home for dinner.
I’m sure there are a lot of places where people still take a pie to a new neighbor but I’m willing to bet that happens in rural areas. I could be wrong. Does it happen in cities when a new tenant moves into an apartment building? I like to think it does; that there are people still out there not afraid.
Yet at the same time, there are reasons to be, maybe not afraid, but certainly cautious.
When my son was little everyone in our small community knew where the kids belonged and where they were supposed to be. He could run wild with his friends because it was safe and luckily local kids can still do that. Would I have let him run around in the city? No. Though I admit it’s because I don’t know cities. Maybe there are neighborhoods where kids are safe to stay out until moths begin circling street lights.
Is it more common now to peer out behind curtains when a new person moves into the neighborhood? I hope not.
It makes me wonder how many people know the names of their neighbors. In the little community where I live I know the names of all my neighbors. I’m pretty familiar with their schedules. I wander across the street to share books or seedlings or invitations to dinner.
Yet when someone new moves in it never crosses my mind to take them food. We’ll meet eventually in our comings and goings.
I’m looking forward to trying traditional food from this new family’s country. And I think I need to return the gesture, not necessarily to resurrect a tradition but to return, briefly, to a time when we weren’t afraid of the stranger behind the door.