Did you ever watch the PBS television program hosted by Fred Rogers where he invited you on a daily excursion to meet the people around him? In contrast to the fast-paced cartoon entertainment offered at the time on other channels, Mr. Rogers was a kind and gentle man who made you feel comfortable in strange surroundings, emphasized respect for others, and offered reassuring advice that things would work out OK. His Land of Make-Believe even had a castle towering above all the houses below. Guess where we live.
Since we’ve rented a house that previously had been a short-term vacation home with occupants changing every few days, we figured that it would take a while to meet the neighbors. Not really. Within a few days of moving in we started talking with the lady across the street who, maybe a week or so later, brought us a tray of croissants for our next day’s breakfast. She also wanted to tell us that she and a few others on the street were organizing an apéro (short for apéritif; think: before-dinner-drinks-with-finger-foods) to welcome us to the neighborhood. Didn’t we read that the French are hard to get to know?
We put aside concerns about not speaking fluent French, or not fully understanding cultural differences and concentrated on the most important aspect: what to take. Isabelle said that everyone would be bringing a little something to drink and eat and if the weather was good we would just all put tables in the street (there are no yards or sidewalks; just the front of our house, the very narrow street, and then the front of the opposite house) and have the party there.
Since we’re in the southwest of France we decided to go with a southwest US theme and serve tortilla rollups with freshly-squeezed lime margaritas that you see in the photo. It seemed a little strange dipping the glass rims into chunky sea salt from the coast of France but, when in Rome….
We waited until we saw some people go into Isabelle’s house before we went across and within 15 minutes were surrounded by 25 new friends. Language was never a problem. Naturally most of the evening was in French but when it was obvious that Bill and I didn’t quite understand what was going on, we suddenly heard a few words of English that clarified the point before we were back to French. Since each person or couple brought some food to share, the table was packed and we were anxious to see what might be included. The clear winner was savory pies/tartes with so many choices including quiches, pizzas, potatoes, and onions. Different types of sausages held second place followed by various breads and cracker-like snacks. As you might expect, at the bar the bottles of wine took control but I did spot some waters and a lone bottle of cola.
What we thought was going to be a quick pop-in event turned into an evening-long dinner. How could we leave early when halfway through, the hostess got everyone’s attention and raised a glass to toast the new neighbors, “Rob and Will”, followed by applause and delightfully accented welcomes. Clean up was a breeze. Not a single rollup was left and the pitcher of margaritas was drained dry. As Mr. Rogers sang, “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood.”